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NAU Volleyball Stifled by Eastern Washington in First Big Sky Defeat

Lauren Jacobsen
Lauren Jacobsen

CHENEY, Wash. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team hit a season-worst .125 against an Eastern Washington block that came up big, and saw their seven-match win streak come to an end Thursday night in a 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21 loss at Reese Court. The Lumberjacks' loss was their first to a Big Sky opponent in over a year, and dropped their overall record to 14-4. NAU, along with Sacramento State who lost on Thursday as well, is now 4-1 in conference play as no team remains undefeated in the Big Sky.

"We were never really in control of our side tonight," said head coach Ken Murphy. "Give credit to Eastern because they played really well. They were defending the things we were trying to do really well, but our team is disappointed that we couldn't get into a better rhythm and a little more aggressive flow tonight."

The Lumberjacks struggled offensively all night as the Eagles used a 10.0-4.5 block advantage to stifle NAU's Big Sky leading attack. Although senior Lauren Jacobsen put down a team-high 12 kills, she was held to her lowest hitting mark of the season at .111. Redshirt sophomore Kaylie Jorgenson was the lone Lumberjack to hit above .250 as she entered as a reserve to hit .273 with four kills.

The first set was a back-and-forth affair with Eastern Washington taking an initial 4-1 lead and extending its advantage to 14-10 midway through. The Lumberjacks then rattled off the next four points to bring the score event at 14-all, with two points coming on aces from redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey. A three-point surge by NAU that provided the 'Jacks with a 19-16 lead forced an Eagle timeout, which the Eagles responded with four points of their own to retake the final of five lead changes. Although a Dorsey kill held off one set point, Eastern Washington struck first with a 25-23 set win.

NAU needed a late run to claim its only set victory of the match, as freshman Sydney Lema recorded three aces in a second-set clinching 6-0 run to tie the match at one game apiece. The Lumberjacks needed to battle back after trailing by as many as eight at 19-11. The first of two pushes came with redshirt freshman Hannah Cherry at the service line, as NAU reeled off five straight points to trim the deficit to three points before Lema finished it off.

Unlike the first two sets, NAU took the first lead with Lema once again serving tough, and recording an ace, during a 5-2 opening run. The Lumberjack advantage held until the Eagles reeled off five straight points to jump in front, 16-13. The teams traded points with ties every step of the way from 17-17 to 20-20, until Eastern Washington gained the final edge with three consecutive points and in all winning five of the final seven points following the sixth tie at 20-all.

Following a Jorgenson kill that had the 'Jacks ahead, 7-5, the Eagles erased the NAU lead for good with a 5-0 run. That had the Lumberjacks playing from behind the rest of the way, and they were unable to make up ground despite hitting a match-best .324 with Jacobsen recording four of her dozen kills in the final game. Dorsey and senior Jensen Barton combined for a block that brought the Lumberjacks within one at 21-20, but they failed to force a fifth set as the Eagles finished the match with four of the final five points.

NAU did manage 10 aces in the match, a career-high four coming from Lema and two each from Jacobsen and Dorsey, but the Eagles' stout defensive effort – also buoyed by 96 digs – kept the Lumberjacks at bay.

Barton finished the match with 26 assists, while Dorsey totaled a team-high three blocks. Sophomore Jordan Anderson recorded a match-high 22 digs as NAU had four players in double-figure digs. Jacobsen added 18 digs to her stat line, while Barton notched 16 digs as both 'Jacks tallied double-doubles.

The Lumberjacks will aim for the split of their weekend road trip when they take on Idaho at 7 p.m. in Moscow, Idaho on Saturday.