Before you say “goodbye” to 2015, check out 15 of the best moments of 2015 for Northern Arizona Athletics in no particular order. The Lumberjacks had an amazing calendar year filled with championships, school records, and the moments that made you say “Wow.”
Deante Kemper Breaks NAU Indoor High Jump Record
Senior Deante Kemper further cemented his Northern Arizona Track & Field legacy in the men's high jump when he broke his own school record at the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 14. Kemper’s record-setting jump of 7-04.25 (2.24m) earned him first place in the event. Kemper went on to pick up his fifth conference high jump title and the first All-American honors of his career at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Track & Field Men Sweep Big Sky Championships
Winning championships is never easy, but the Northern Arizona men’s track & field squads continued to make it appear otherwise as they swept the 2015 Big Sky Indoor and Outdoor titles for the fourth consecutive year. In fact, the 2015 Senior Class finished their careers undefeated as they completed the triple crown – winning the conference cross country, indoor and outdoor track championships – in each of their four years. The Lumberjack men started the calendar year by defending their home turf in winning the Indoor Championship in the Walkup Skydome with 144 points before turning their sights to the Outdoor Championship where they finished co-champions with Sacramento State in Cheney, Wash. with 157 points.
Football Upsets No. 4 Eastern Washington
In front of a rowdy Eagle crowd, Northern Arizona traveled to Cheney, Wash. and stunned No. 4 Eastern Washington on Nov. 7 with a 52-30 victory on their homecoming. The defeat marked only the seventh time the Eagles had lost on the red field, while also breaking an overall six-game winning streak while NAU handed EWU its first regular season home loss since 2011. It was the second straight year NAU had beaten Eastern Washington and both times the Eagles were ranked in the top four in the nation.
Women’s Basketball Beats North Dakota in Double OT
Northern Arizona women’s basketball earned their first ever double overtime victory in school history on Feb. 26 at home in the Rolle Activity Center, 72-68, over North Dakota. Facing the same team who beat them by 16 points three weeks earlier on the road, NAU took down the defending conference champions for a pivotal victory in their push towards eventually ending a six-year Big Sky Tournament drought.
Men’s Basketball CIT Run
The Northern Arizona men’s basketball team brought the entire Flagstaff community along with them as they defeated team after team in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Lumberjacks won a school record four postseason games, while a record crowd of 5,583 watched NAU win its semifinal game on March 31 versus NJIT and advance to the school’s first-ever postseason championship game. The team set a school record for overall and postseason wins to become the only team in the state of Arizona playing in April.
Men’s Tennis Tops No. 1 and No. 3 Seeds, Advances to Championship Match
The Northern Arizona men's tennis team made it all the way to the Big Sky Championship after pulling off two upsets in the quarterfinals and semifinals that set up a matchup with Idaho in the finals. The Lumberjacks first defeated No. 3 Montana, 4-2, in the first round, and then went on to beat No. 1 seed Weber State, 4-1, in the semifinals to advance to the championship match. NAU's season came to an end as the Lumberjacks fell to the Vandals 4-2, but not before putting up a great effort.
Soccer Hosts Arizona in Front of a School Record Crowd
The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team hosted the University of Arizona on Aug. 29 in front of a school record crowd of 3,263 screaming fans. The stands were full to the point that it became a standing room only to catch a glimpse of the action. It was the biggest attendance in Lumberjack Stadium ever, breaking the previous record of 2,207 fans who came to watch NAU play Arizona State in 2012. It marked the highest attendance number for a women's college soccer match in the state of Arizona.
NAU Records a School-Best 5,237 Community Service Hours
During the 2014-15 academic year, Northern Arizona student-athletes completed a whopping 5,327 hours in the Flagstaff community and the greater Northern Arizona region in an outstanding department-wide effort to give back. The achievement was nearly 1,000 more hours than last year's record total and almost 1,500 hours more than the year prior. The record number comes after the department eclipsed 4,000 hours for the first time in school history in 2013-14.
Golf Winning Big Sky Title on Final Day
The Northern Arizona golf team entered the third and final round of the 2015 Big Sky Championship down six strokes behind Southern Utah in third place. By the end of the final round in which four teams including NAU held the top spot on the leaderboard, the Lumberjacks emerged victorious with a third round score of 297. NAU won its eighth Big Sky title in school history which qualified the ‘Jacks for the NCAA West Regional.
Swimming and Diving Repeats as WAC Champs
Two years ago, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team had zero Western Athletic Championships. After a dominating performance in San Antonio during the final week of February, NAU stood alone as the WAC Champions for the second consecutive year posting a successful title defense. It was a complete team effort for the Lumberjacks, as they scored 666 points to topple New Mexico State by 127 points, with all 20 of their scoring athletes earning points in at least one event.
Janae Vander Ploeg Becomes First Volleyball All-American
Janae Vander Ploeg concluded her outstanding career as a Lumberjack with the most decorated individual season by any Northern Arizona volleyball player ever. Vander Ploeg, who finished ninth in the country in kills and sixth in points, became the first player in program history to receive AVCA All-America honors by being voted as an Honorable Mention All-American. That capped a season in which she also became the first AVCA All-Region First Team honoree in school history, was named the Big Sky Regular Season and Tournament MVP, became the first player in league history to receive three consecutive Player of the Week awards, broke NAU season and career records for kills and became the fifth player in school history to join the 1,000 kill/1,000 dig club.
Football Goes Undefeated at Home
For the second time in three seasons, the Northern Arizona football team went undefeated at home in the Walkup Skydome. The Lumberjacks won all five of their games, scored 41 or more points in all of their contests, and beat No. 10 Montana State on Family Weekend. NAU’s highest point tally of the season was a 63-point outing versus Northern Colorado on Halloween.
Johanna Vang Named Conference Honoree for NCAA Woman of the Year Award
Senior Northern Arizona women's tennis player Johanna Vang was named the Big Sky Conference’s 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year honoree after earning NAU's Co-Female Student Athlete of the Year and graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average in marketing with a business economics certificate. Vang also was voted to the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District 8 First Team and earned her fourth Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete Award. On the tennis court, Vang was a four-time All-Big Sky honoree and served as the team's captain during her final three years.
Volleyball Wins Big Sky in Front of School Record Crowd to Advance to NCAA
The 2015 Northern Arizona Volleyball team will go down as the greatest in program history, and one of the greatest Lumberjack teams in all sports, after posting a 28-5 record this fall. The Lumberjacks compiled a 15-1 conference record to host the Big Sky Championship for the first time in school history, and they made the most of their home court advantage in sweeping Idaho State on Nov. 21 to clinch their first NCAA Tournament Appearance since 1999. NAU won its second ever conference tournament championship in front of a sellout and school record crowd of 1,423 in the Rolle Activity Center in extending its school record win streak to 17 matches in the process.
Case Cookus Wins National Freshman of the Year
Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus was named the National Freshman Player of the Year. He broke an 11-year-old NCAA FCS freshman record for most touchdown passes in a season with 37. At the end of the regular season, Cookus had the most touchdown passes in a single game in the FCS with seven, had been responsible for seven touchdowns in a game twice, led the FCS in passing touchdowns (37), was second in passing efficiency (184.9), third in completion percentage (68.9), points responsible for (21.8), and yards per pass attempt (9.66), sixth in passing yards (3,111), and eighth in passing yards per game (282.8). He had the fewest interceptions (5) by any quarterback in the FCS with 3,000 or more passing yards. Cookus broke the NAU season record for touchdown passes and ranked sixth all-time in NAU season passing yards. Cookus had 88 passes of 20 or more yards and 57 passes of 30 or more yards.