PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team let a third set lead slip away and their late fourth set comeback bid fell short in a 25-15, 18-25, 25-20, 25-20 loss to Temple in the Lumberjacks' 2016 opener. NAU was led by senior Addy Lofstedt who put down 13 kills in the defeat.
"It was a really good match, but Temple played a little more steady than we did honestly," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We were good in stretches and we competed really well at times in a tough environment against a good team. We had our chances to win, but I also know we grew a lot and learned a lot about ourselves."
Lofstedt committed just three errors on 21 swings and finished the match with a .476 hitting percentage. The 13 kills matched her second-highest total of her career as she was joined in double-digit kills by senior Lauren Jacobsen, who added 10.
NAU's youth and relative inexperience showed from the get-go with freshmen Abby Akin and Sydney Lema along with junior transfer Brooke Donnelly all cracking the starting lineup in their Lumberjack debuts. Although the 'Jacks tied up the first set at 12-12, the Owls pulled away from NAU with an 8-0 run that put the opener out of reach.
After finishing the first set with a negative hitting percentage at -.030, the Lumberjacks put together their best performance in the second set to knot the match up at 1-1. While NAU hit .417 in the second set, it was redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey's play at the net that sparked the game-changing run. With the Lumberjacks clinging to a 13-12 lead, Dorsey had her hand in three NAU blocks – after recording none in the first set – during an 8-2 run that allowed the 'Jacks to head into the intermission with the momentum.
The momentum appeared to be short lived coming out of the break with Temple racing out to a 6-1 lead, but NAU responded by taking a 9-8 lead following six straight points. Dorsey's second ace of the match gave the Lumberjacks a 17-12 in the third set, but the Owls soared back to tie it at 18-all and eventually finished on a 7-2 run to retake the match advantage.
"We were focused on competing point-by-point during the stretches we played well," Murphy said. "Temple was steadier than we were during the middle of the third set and that was big in deciding the match."
NAU appeared poised to force a decisive fifth set with Jacobsen recording a pair of kills during a 5-2 spurt to open the fourth game. However, the lead was short lived as Temple scored the next six points to take the lead for good. The 'Jacks trailed by as much as six late in the set, 19-13, before turning it up a notch. Another Jacobsen kill closed the gap to 21-19 and after the teams traded points, NAU was within striking distance at 22-20. Yet, the Owls held court and kept the Lumberjacks at bay by closing with the final three points.
Temple hit .261 for the match while holding NAU to just a .159 clip overall. The Owls used a 10.0-7.0 blocks advantage to limit the Lumberjacks offensively.
Senior Jensen Barton posted an all-around line of 27 assists, 11 digs, six kills and two aces to record her first double-double. Jacobsen also notched a double-double with 10 digs to go along with her 10 kills. Sophomore Jordan Anderson matched Barton for the team lead with 11 digs, while Dorsey recorded a team-high five blocks.
NAU will have a short turnaround with an 8 a.m. first serve against Hampton Saturday morning to close out the Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia Temple Invitational.