BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – For the third straight match, the Northern Arizona volleyball team had to go the distance and in their second match of the Roadrunner Classic, the Lumberjacks took down UC Irvine, 25-22, 24-26, 25-20, 21-25, 15-12. The 'Jacks, now 9-3 this season, will take on San Francisco this afternoon at 4 p.m. in their non-conference finale.
"I'm really proud of how tough we were today," said head coach Ken Murphy. "UC Irvine played great and it was a back-and-forth match. We were tough-minded and worked our way through the match. We had to fight for everything we got."
NAU had to battle the entire morning to dispatch UC Irvine, who earlier this season upset No. 7 USC on the road, in a match that in no way mirrored its victory over UC Riverside on Friday. Less than 24 hours after engaging in a defensive slugfest in which neither NAU or UC Riverside hit above .200, the Lumberjacks and Anteaters had their offensive systems clicking on all cylinders. The 'Jacks hit .327 Saturday morning in victory, while the Anteaters hit .293.
"Their offense was really hard to stop and they had a couple of hitters who were producing big numbers," Murphy said. "We had to keep fighting when they were having success and that's the best part of this match because we learned how to get through it."
Redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey had her service game working early, recording two of her career-high tying four aces, to spur NAU to an early 4-1 lead to begin the match. The set was tied midway through at 15-all before freshman Abby Akin gave NAU the lead for good with a kill. The Anteaters kept close trailing by just one at 23-22, but senior Lauren Jacobsen finished off the set with a kill and an ace.
Although UC Irvine led 11-7 in the second set, NAU managed to not only even the score but took a 17-13 lead following two blocks by Akin and two kills from Jacobsen. Yet, the second set exemplified the see-saw nature of the match as it featured 12 ties and five lead changes with the Anteaters eventually tying the match at one set apiece.
The Lumberjacks hit .429 in the third set in which they seized control with a 10-1 run that turned a 10-7 deficit into a sizeable 17-11 lead. Jacobsen torched the Anteaters with five kills during the game-changing run and had seven of her match-high 27 kills in the third set alone to put NAU within one set of the match victory.
NAU was unable to clinch in four though as UC Irvine earned a hard-fought fourth set win to force a winner-take-all fifth game. The Anteaters prevailed in a set that had 11 ties and six lead changes by closing with a 6-1 run after redshirt freshman Hannah Cherry provided the Lumberjacks with a brief 20-19 lead.
That set the stage for the final game – which marked NAU's first string of three straight five-set matches since 2008 – and the Lumberjacks had to overcome a three-point deficit in the race to 15 points. UC Irvine held a 9-6 lead following consecutive service aces, which promptly forced an NAU timeout. The Lumberjacks continued to trail 10-8 until a crucial UCI service error shifted the momentum to NAU. Two Anteater mistakes combined with kills from Dorsey and senior Jensen Barton capped a decisive 5-0 run that put NAU ahead 13-10 and after UC Irvine closed to 13-12, Jacobsen put the hammer down with her final two kills.
Jacobsen hit .377 in the win and added 14 digs, three aces and three blocks in her ninth double-double effort of the season. Senior Addy Lofstedt was also a thorn to UC Irvine's side with 11 kills on .385 hitting, while freshman Sydney Lema, Akin, Barton and Dorsey all had at least six kills. Barton recorded a season-high 53 assists as NAU tallied a season-high 66 kills.
The 'Jacks also held advantages in aces (11-4) and blocks (9.0-6.5). Akin posted a match-high seven blocks, while Jacobsen, sophomore Jordan Anderson, junior Brooke Donnelly and Lema all tallied double-digit dig performances to pace the defense.
NAU returns to the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif. this afternoon at 4 p.m. versus San Francisco.