Lumberjacks share spotlight in last tournament before Big Sky Conference
by Alli Jenny
Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) women’s volleyball team competed in its third consecutive non-conference tournament at the Hilton Garden Inn’s Molten Classic hosted by the University of California-Berkeley.
There, the team faced their second Pac-12 and Ivy League schools. Dropping their first match of the season, the Lumberjacks went 2–1 before returning home.
NAU headed into its final match of the tournament against host University of California-Berkeley, who started the season ranked No. 17 in the nation, off a 26–7 overall record last year. The Lumberjacks were swept in both 2000 and 2002 while competing in this matchup. Falling for the first time this season, the Lumberjacks lost their last match (22–25, 25–21, 25–23, 17–25) to the Pac–12 affiliated Bears.
“It’s always fun playing big teams and it gets you pumped up, but I think we hung with them and did a really good job,” said senior hitter Anna Gott via NAU Athletics. “I think this is the best we’ve played as a team all fall and it’s big for us entering conference play next week.”
Fighting back in the third set to force a fourth game, the Lumberjacks capitalized on a kill, a block and a Cal attacking error after being tied 21–21, before freshman Vander Ploeg terminated the set with a kill.
The Bears hit a match-high .378 in the final set, while the Lumberjacks struggled with seven attacking errors, unable to come back from the point deficit.
This past Saturday, NAU faced the University of Pennsylvania Quakers, advancing their record to 8–0 in a four set match (25–19, 25–12, 21–25, 25–17). Sophomore setter Kalee Kirby and senior outside hitter Kelli Dallmann each recorded a double–double in the match, Kirby with 41 assists and her career-high 26 digs and Dallmann with 12 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Sydney Kemper would contribute eight kills of her own and two assists on blocking, while freshman middle blocker Payton Bock led the team with nine blocks. Two attacking errors, along with two service errors towards the end of the third set, caused the Lumberjacks to face a fourth set before closing out the match.
Led by Kemper, who was awarded Co–Big Sky Player of the Week after the tournament play, the squad swept the University of California-Riverside (25–21, 26–24, 25–19) Friday night to advance their record to 7–0. Kemper tallied nine kills, six blocks and two service aces in the match. She made only one attacking error on 14 attempts, improving her hitting percentage to .571. Defensively, senior libero Anna Gott and Dallmann both contributed 10 digs in the match, setting up Kirby to work her offense with 30 assists.
Dallman and freshman Janae Vander Ploeg received All–Tournament honors once again after their performance this weekend. In the match against the Bears, Dallmann posted another double–double with 15 kills and 15 digs, while Vander Ploeg had 13 kills and eight digs of her own. Gott dominated the team’s back row defensively with 29 digs.
“We played really well and it was really fun,” said head coach Craig Choate via NAU Athletics. “The girls played their hearts out and were just fabulous. If we play like that in conference, we’re going to be in great shape.”
NAU will continue their play on the road this Friday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. Arizona time, opening conference play at Idaho State.