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NAU Falls to North Dakota in Penultimate Regular Season Match

Abby Akin
Abby Akin

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team struggled to find a rhythm Thursday night in a 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 sweep at the hands of North Dakota in the Rolle Activity Center. The loss snapped NAU's 25-match home win streak and also marked the first time that the 'Jacks dropped consecutive matches since Sept. 19-20, 2014.

"North Dakota was under control and aggressive the entire night and for some reason, we were out of control," said head coach Ken Murphy. "Our intent was good, but I think we were definitely pressing and not controlling our side of the net well. We were fighting back, but it's really hard when you're pressing to get into a good flow."

The Lumberjacks (21-7, 11-4 Big Sky) fell out of contention to host the conference tournament with the defeat, but it was not without a fight after a slow start out of the gate.

The Big Sky leading Fighting Hawks took control of the opening game by breaking a 7-7 tie with a four-point surge. Immediately after freshman Sydney Lema aced the Fighting Hawks to cut NAU's deficit to 12-11, the visitors answered with another three-point run. Despite 3.0 first set blocks which helped play into just a .167 hitting percentage for North Dakota, NAU could not kill the ball with any efficiency totaling just seven kills to start the match.

North Dakota parlayed a strong first set into a dominant second set, particularly during a crushing 8-1 run. Redshirt sophomore Kaylie Jorgenson brought NAU within 7-5, but the Lumberjacks quickly found themselves down 15-6 after burning both of their timeouts. UND's lead held all the way to 24-17 before NAU made a furious late attempt with redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey as the catalyst. Dorsey's kill staved off one set point and sent her to the service line where she picked up a pair of aces during a 5-0 run. That allowed the 'Jacks to climb to 24-22, but would not go any further as UND finally put away NAU on its sixth set point.

NAU's late momentum carried into the third set as senior Lauren Jacobsen's ace forced an early UND timeout with the Lumberjacks ahead 8-5. NAU continued to lead until 12-10 only for North Dakota to take the lead for good at 15-14. Once again though, the 'Jacks refused to go quietly into the night as a Jacobsen kill and a tandem block by senior Jensen Barton and freshman Abby Akin closed the gap to 23-22. The Lumberjacks failed to reap the rewards of their efforts though in the end with the Fighting Hawks wrapping up the match with the next two points.

"It was almost like we were fighting so hard that it was hurting us," Murphy said. "We can learn from that though and it's normal for a team to go through that. It's just unfortunate it happened in a match of this magnitude, but we can learn from this and be better."

Jacobsen notched her 20th double-double with team-highs of 11 kills and 18 digs. Barton also recorded her 16th double-double with 27 assists and 12 digs.

NAU held advantages in aces (6-3) and blocks (7.0-3.0), but were outhit .216-.131 Akin recorded a match-high four blocks with Barton and Dorsey each tallying three apiece.

The Lumberjacks will play their regular season finale on Saturday versus Southern Utah at 2 p.m. in the Rolle Activity Center. The match will be Senior Day for Jacobsen, Barton and Addy Lofstedt as NAU's senior class will play their final home match of their career. They will be honored during a presentation prior to the start of the match.