MARTIN, Tenn. – Playing its fifth match in four days, the Northern Arizona volleyball team cruised by Alabama A&M, 25-17, 25-9, 25-13, with contributions from a few unfamiliar names. Redshirt freshmen Victoria Ewalefo and Hannah Cherry both excelled in their first career starts among a host of other Lumberjacks who helped the team notch their third straight victory and a perfect 2-0 record on Monday.
"We have a really deep team and we have a lot of players who can go in and contribute," said Ken Murphy, who passed Craig Choate for second on NAU's all-time wins list with his 73rd victory as Lumberjack head coach. "It was a good day to look at some different options and give ourselves confidence that throughout the season we have enough depth to be successful."
NAU needed only 67 minutes to dispatch Alabama A&M behind the efforts of Ewalefo, Cherry and redshirt sophomore Kaylie Jorgenson. Ewalefo recorded career-bests of seven kills on .417 hitting and three blocks while Cherry ripped five aces in addition to totaling five digs – both of which led NAU. Jorgenson came on in reserve and hit a blistering .533 with a career-high nine kills.
As a team, the Lumberjacks hit .506 for the entire match to set a new school record. With senior Jensen Barton and freshman Abby Stomp – who made her collegiate debut – splitting time at setter, the attack totaled 45 kills on 79 attempts with just five errors to eclipse the .500 mark for the first time in a match in program history.
Senior Lauren Jacobsen, who finished with a match-high 11 kills, scored the first point of the match in a wire-to-wire victory for NAU in which it never trailed throughout the match's entirety. Between Jacobsen and Ewalefo, both of whom contributed three kills each, the Lumberjacks connected on kills on each of their first six swings during a 9-2 run to open the match. Jacobsen and Jorgenson wound up each with five kills in the first set as NAU started out by hitting .571.
Cherry then took the first serve of the second set and immediately served three of her five aces during a rapid 6-0 start. Cherry's serving was more than enough as the Lumberjacks' lead sat at 15-2 following consecutive blocks by Jacobsen and freshman Abby Akin, and the NAU train continued all the way to senior Addy Lofstedt's set-clinching kill.
The third set was more of the same for the 'Jacks, as they claimed six of the first seven points, including aces from sophomore Jordan Anderson and Stomp. Stomp played the entire third set at setter and notched 11 of her 15 assists, while Akin enjoyed a successful third set with three kills and three blocks.
The 'Jacks stifled the Lady Bulldogs all afternoon as Alabama A&M hit just .153. The Lumberjacks used 8.0 team blocks, led by Akin's five blocks, to hold their opponent under .200 hitting for the fourth consecutive match. NAU also equaled its season-high of 10 aces with Anderson matching her career-high of three behind Cherry's five.
Next up, NAU opens up its home schedule by hosting Bethune-Cookman this Friday and Saturday in the Rolle Activity Center. Friday's match will start at 6 p.m. and Saturday's match is set for a 7 p.m. start. The 'Jacks are riding a school record 17-match win streak at home dating back to the end of the 2014 season.
"It was such a tough few days of volleyball for us," Murphy said. "It tested our resolve and coming out on the other side of it, we're a better team. We're a lot more aware of what we're capable of. After a few days of rest and to play at home this upcoming weekend, this will be a very good place to move forward from."