Volleyball rolls through road trip, defeating defending conference champions
By Jasmyn Wimbish
NAU’s (Northern Arizona University) women’s volleyball team extended its winning streak as they tallied two more wins to an already impressive record. The Lumberjacks journeyed to take on two-time defending Big Sky Conference (BSC) champions, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) and the University of North Dakota (UND).
The Lumberjacks faced off against UND on Oct. 13 and swept in three winning sets (25–21, 25–22, 25–19). Sophomore setter Kalee Kirby recorded a double-double on the game with 30 assists and 12 digs. UND kept it close in the first two sets, but NAU eventually pulled away for the win.
“I think we were pretty confident going into that game,” said head coach Craig Choate. “I think we just gain a little more confidence with each match.”
Senior outside hitter Jen Wilson hit .875 on the night while converting on seven of her eight hits. Freshman middle blocker Payton Bock continued her impressive play by leading the team in kills with nine and added an additional five blocks.
NAU faced off against UNC two days prior to the UND match and beat the Bears in four sets (17–25, 25–20, 25–21, 25–17). The Jacks started off shaky in the first set, but found their footing, coming back to take the next three sets with a dominant approach and keeping the Bears hitting percentage at a .165 for the evening.
In the beginning of the second set, NAU went on a 5–0 scoring run, leading the set the rest of the way with dominant plays from senior outside hitter Kelli Dallmann, freshman outside hitter Janae Vander Ploeg and Bock.
Dallmann posted a double-double on the evening with 16 kills and 12 digs, while Vander Ploeg and Bock tallied 12 kills each.
“That win felt really good, and after the game was over we just felt like it was the best game we’ve played,” Dallmann said. “It definitely gave us a lot of confidence.”
After NAU won the second set, UNC tried to answer back in the third by keeping the game close. As a result, the game was tied on five different occasions. At the final tie, 19–19, UNC’s head coach called a timeout. This only helped NAU, as they scored three straight points, upping the score to 22–19.
UNC responded by registering one kill, but NAU iced the set with a kill by sophomore middle blocker Sydney Kemper and Vander Ploeg. The final set point came off of a hitting error committed by the Bears and gave the Jacks a 2–1 set advantage.
The Jacks had to fight from behind in the fourth set after the Bears took a 2–5 lead. NAU knotted the game at eight all, and from that point the game was back-and-forth. The Lumberjacks then took a commanding 18–13 lead, allowing the Bears to score four more points before taking their hard fought win.
“I think if we keep playing together as a team and focus on serve and receive, then we should be good,” Vander Ploeg said.
These two wins put the Lumberjacks in third place in BSC, (15–3 overall, 7–2 Big Sky). The Jacks will face off against the team currently in first place, Idaho State University, on Oct. 20. NAU matched-up against Idaho State earlier in the season, where it suffered its second loss of the season with a set score of 1–3.
“We played well against them last time, they just played better,” Choate said. “We’ll see if things repeat themselves, but I don’t think we’ll do much differently this time around.”
Before getting a rematch against Idaho State, NAU will first have to maneuver its way past the Weber State University Wildcats on Oct. 18. The Jacks have previously beaten the Wildcats and set a record for the fewest points allowed by an opponent, which they recently broke again playing against the University of Montana Grizzlies.
Both games will be played at home as the Jacks look to increase their winning record and move up in the Big Sky standings.
“When we play against Idaho State we’re going to give it everything we’ve got,” Dallmann said. “We’re at home this time so hopefully that will give us some sort of advantage, but it’s going to be a good rematch.”