MOSCOW, Idaho – It was never easy Saturday night for the Northern Arizona volleyball team, but traditionally it never has been. Coming off a loss and playing in a gym the program had not won in since 1992, the Lumberjacks battled all night up until match point and came away with a 20-25, 25-21, 25-18, 17-25, 15-11 win over Idaho behind a season-high four players in double-digit kills.
"Idaho played as well as I've seen and I was proud of our team's ability to match their intensity," said head coach Ken Murphy. "Tonight was huge for us. We talked about trusting the habits we've worked so hard to develop and it was important for our team to prove to ourselves that those habits will get us results. There were times that we weren't completely on, but in the biggest moments our team was solid and earned it tonight."
While senior Lauren Jacobsen led all players with 17 kills, NAU (15-4, 5-1 Big Sky) received many contributions and needed them all to snap a five-match losing streak in Moscow to the Vandals. Senior Addy Lofstedt and freshman Abby Akin each tallied 11 kills – with Akin's total being her first career-double digit kill match – but the senior Jensen Barton found redshirt sophomore Kaylie Jorgenson for 12 kills in reserve for the unlikely source of kills. Like Akin, the dozen kills marked a new career-high for Jorgenson as well. Barton, playing in her 100th career match, finished the night with 50 assists.
"Jensen was the best player in the match," Murphy said. "She was able to find the hot hitter at different times and keep us in the match. But we've been feeling that Kaylie has been ready more and more with each day, and tonight she had an opportunity and took advantage of it. She was aggressive and smart with her shots and made a really big imprint on the match."
The 'Jacks pulled out their third five-set victory of the season and had to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the match, just two nights after dropping their first match to a Big Sky opponent in over a year. Idaho claimed eight of the final 10 points in the opening game and hit .314 in the process while limiting NAU to only .150 hitting to put itself in the driver's seat.
The Lumberjacks reversed the tide and held down the Vandals to .191 hitting in the second game, but had to power their way to the end after seeing a 15-10 lead evaporate. After Idaho brought the set to a 19-19 tie, Jacobsen broke the stalemate with a kill and started a 6-2 match-tying run. Jacobsen and Barton then each tallied an ace, with Jorgenson sealing the deal with a kill right through the middle of the Idaho back row during the closing run.
In contrast to a defensive controlled first two sets, both teams had their way offensively in the third set, but it was the 'Jacks who came out on top by hitting a match-high .444. Riding the arms of Jacobsen, Lofstedt and Jorgenson, who combined for 14 kills in the game, NAU utilized an 8-3 start to its advantage as it led by as much as eight points while never trailing.
However, Idaho commanded the fourth game, using five blocks to send the match to a decisive fifth. Jacobsen continued her hot hand, knocking down three kills within NAU's first four points. However, Idaho negated a 4-2 NAU lead with a 5-0 run and took off. Although consecutive kills from Akin and Lofstedt closed the Lumberjack gap to 18-15, it was not enough as Idaho controlled both sides of the net the entire game.
That set the stage for the fifth game that was tied every step of the way until Jorgenson snapped a 5-5 tie with a kill. Sophomore Jordan Anderson took the sideout and immediately served an ace with Jorgenson following with another kill to force a Vandal timeout. Anderson would continue to serve until Idaho halted a 6-0 NAU run that ultimately was the difference maker. Jacobsen and redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey combined for a block that put NAU at 14-8, but Idaho failed to go away quietly withstanding three match points. Following a timeout, the 'Jacks finally put away the Vandals on a kill by Dorsey off the Idaho block.
NAU was slightly outhit .243-.241 and was outblocked 11.0-8.0. Yet, NAU recorded seven aces to Idaho's one receiving two aces a piece from Dorsey, Barton and Anderson. The Lumberjacks also recorded a season-high 91 digs led by Anderson's 22.
The Lumberjacks, one of three teams at 5-1 in conference play, opens up a season-long four-match homestand on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Rolle Activity Center versus Portland State. NAU will then host Sacramento State, also owners of a 5-1 conference record, on Saturday at 12 p.m. Both matches will be part of NAU's #LouieLegit promotion and Thursday's match will also be the Lumberjacks' Dig Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness night.