NAU women’s volleyball tallies two sweeps before final stretch of schedule
By Jasmyn Wambash
Another record was broken this past week for the NAU women’s volleyball team as they picked up two more wins at home. The Lumberjacks broke the record for fewest points allowed by an opponent, which they set earlier in the season when they played against the Weber State University Wildcats.
The Jacks held the University of Montana Grizzlies to 39 points in the three set sweep (25–8, 25–11, 25–20) that took place on Oct. 6. The Lumberjacks controlled the match the entire night while holding the Grizzlies to an astounding .110 hitting percentage.
The team jumped out to a quick start in the first set holding Montana to just eight points and obtaining the second best set hitting percentage in program history at .652.
NAU steamrolled Montana in the second set as well, allowing only 11 points, bringing the Jacks to take a commanding lead. They took a 17–7 lead before Montana’s head coach called a timeout. This did not help as the Lumberjacks cruised to another easy set win over the Grizzlies, taking control of the match 2-0. Senior outside hitter Kelli Dallmann helped the team adding six kills in the second set and totaling eight on the evening.
“The mentality for this game was to just go hard and play as a team, like we’ve been doing in the past,” Dallmann said.
With a reasonable amount of confidence going into the third set, the Lumberjacks found themselves fighting a little harder for the win.
“You cannot keep somebody down for an entire match, and that’s what we kept talking about,” said head coach Craig Choate. “Eventually they were going to come back and make it interesting.”
The Grizzlies tried to force the match to a fourth set, but could not hold off the dominant play from the Lumberjacks’ middle blockers, sophomore Sydney Kemper and freshman Payton Bock. Kemper posted a .692 hitting percentage while obtaining nine kills for the night and Bock made her presence known at the net adding on 12 kills.
The win came at a price when late in the third set two of NAU’s players went down with injuries. Freshman outside hitter Janae Vander Ploeg hurt her elbow and was taken out of the game, while Kemper hurt her ankle early on in the third but still continued to play.
“They’re both fine, the ankle was a tweak, and they’re going to check the elbow, but Janae came back to me and told me that if she needed to go back in she could have,” Choate said.
On Oct. 4 NAU squared off agaisnt the Montana State University Bobcats and added another sweep in straight sets to its resume (25–21, 25–18, 25–18) as they took on the Bobcats for the Jacks second home game of the season.
This match was point-for-point the entire night as the score was tied 14 different times, just in the first set. The team went into this game with a focused mentality and came out on top through defense and blocking. They totaled ten blocks on the night with some help from Bock.
“It isn’t something we necessarily practice, but for me, I get a lot of reps in practice so that helps me for where I need to be for blocks,” Bock said.
The Bobcats suffered from many unforced errors, which helped the Lumberjacks cruise to an easy win. But even with the errors tallied by Montana State, NAU still needed to fight for the win.
“You never know what an unforced error is. If it’s serving, yeah, if it’s hitting they might be running away from the block you never know, but it’s always a factor,” Choate said. “That’s part of the game, to limit errors, and it’s something we talk about an awful lot and we did a really good job of limiting errors.”
In only her second home game as a Lumberjack, Vander Ploeg posted 10 kills on the night and eight digs. Along with Vander Ploeg, Dallmann also tallied ten kills to the stat sheet, helping NAU win the match.
“I think our biggest focus was on serve receive, because if we start well in serve receive it helps the whole game,” Vander Ploeg said. “It helps our setting and our hitting and we were just concentrating on getting everything up and we always talk about having everything 20-10.”
The two wins improved NAU’s record to 14–3 overall, and 6–2 in the Big Sky Conference (BSC). The Lumberjacks are now tied for third place in BSC with their next opponent, the University of Northern Colorado Bears.
“They have the advantage because it’s at their place and they have a lot of confidence, but we have nothing to lose,” Choate said. “When we play them here we’ll have the advantage, but I’m looking forward to it.”
NAU will head out to Colorado to take on the Bears on Oct. 11, and then play at the University of North Dakota on Oct. 13 before heading back home to take on Weber State University for the second time.
“We just need to take it one game at a time and never overlook the next opponent,” Vander Ploeg said. “We just need to keep fighting and have fun on the court.”