NAU splits home matches
The NAU volleyball team improved to .500 in conference play this weekend, keeping them within sight of the Big Sky Conference championships. The Lumberjacks dropped the first match of the weekend Thursday night to Montana (8-10, 4-3 BSC), but had a decisive win on Saturday against Montana State (9-10, 2-5 BSC). NAU is now 3-3 in conference play with an overall record of 7-9.
“I was feeling good about our performance Thursday,” said head coach Craig Choate. “Our biggest problem is that we’ve been so tentative for so long … now they’re starting to just relax a little bit and play, so I’m pretty happy.”
Against Montana, NAU started out well, defeating the Grizzlies 25-17 in the first set. However, the next four sets were close throughout, with each team trading point for point. NAU lost the second set 22-25, won the third 25-22, and lost the last two 17-25 and 12-15, respectively.
“They started hitting higher,” said sophomore outside hitter Jen Wilson. “I felt like we played great. In all honesty, we kicked butt. Everyone went hard. Everyone wanted it so bad, so it kind of sucks that we lost.”
Choate also said he thought that the team played with effort.
“I don’t think that we did anything wrong,” Choate said. “The truth is, that was probably our best offensive outing of the year, and I think we played good. I think that we came up short by a half of an inch. It just kind of broke my heart that we didn’t win.”
On Saturday, the Lumberjacks continued their solid offense, beating the Montana State Bobcats in three quick sets. NAU was led by senior middle blocker Chelsea Cheeley and freshman middle blocker Niki Small, who had .727 and .526 hitting percentages, respectively. Sophomore setter/outside hitter Kelli Dallmann continued solid play with another double-double, recording a game-high 41 assists along with 13 digs.
“That’s definitely my highest hitting percentage ever, which is a good feeling,” Cheeley said. “I’m just glad I can contribute to my team in winning.”
In front of an attendance of 612, the Lumberjacks won with scores of 25-22, 25-15 and 25-14. NAU lead the match in almost every single statistical category, with 46 kills, a .333 hitting percentage, 44 assists, 42 digs and 8 team blocks.
“We are playing really good,” Small said. “We really came out. Everyone worked really well together, we communicated really well and everyone was working really hard. It just shows how we beat them in three [sets].”
The Lumberjacks are back in action next week as they travel on the road. NAU will face Eastern Washington in Cheney Oct. 15 and Portland State in Portland on Oct. 16. These matches will finish the first half of conference play for NAU.