GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team struggled to avoid critical runs by North Dakota and was swept Thursday night, 25-15, 25-16, 25-18 to fall to 13-6 in Big Sky play with one final regular season match remaining on Saturday at Northern Colorado.
"North Dakota played really well and they had two really good middles that were executing early making them tough to defend," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We started slow and we improved throughout the match. I thought we showed good character because we kept fighting. We didn't let changes in our lineup affect us and we tried to control things on our side of the net."
The Lumberjacks got off to a slow start as UND controlled the first set from the beginning. North Dakota scored five of the first six points of the match forcing a quick NAU timeout and it never trailed. The Lumberjacks was able to string together consecutive points just once in the set as they fell behind 1-0 in the match.
Junior Taylor Stephens ensured that NAU would not start off on the wrong foot to begin the next game as she recorded a solo block and a kill for the Lumberjacks' first two points. A kill by junior Sydney Kemper gave NAU three of the first four points of the set and it led 5-4 after junior Hannah Hill knocked down two straight kills. But the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing 8-7 before UND pushed its lead out to 13-8 via a 5-1 run. NAU closed within 15-12 but only for North Dakota to extend its advantage out to double-digits at 23-13 after another 8-1 run in riding to a second set victory.
Like the second set, the Lumberjacks avoided a slow start and was locked into a 10-all score following a kill by freshman Izzy Gosar but UND pulled away by converting seven consecutive points. North Dakota's lead would stretch out to 22-12 until the Lumberjacks had one final push in them. Back-to-back kills by Addy Lofstedt sparked a 6-1 run that got NAU back within five at 23-18 and UND was forced to call a timeout. They would waste no time after the stoppage, winning the next two points to finish the sweep.
NAU struggled offensively as it hit .125, its lowest clip since Sept. 14. North Dakota's block had a big effect on that as it outblocked the Lumberjacks 8.0-3.0.
The Lumberjacks wrap up the regular season at Northern Colorado, Saturday night at 7 p.m., in their final match before next week's Big Sky Championships.