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Volleyball Defeats Illinois State, Utah Valley to Win Wolverine Invitational

Photo Courtesy Kelly Linde/UVU

OREM, Utah – After defeating Illinois State, 3-2, to open play on Saturday, NAU came back in the night cap to win a tightly-contested 3-1 match against host Utah Valley for a sweep at the Wolverine Invitational in Orem, Utah (24-26, 26-24, 25-22, 27-25). Junior setter Kelli Dallmann recorded a double-double while posting 53 assists and 16 digs and junior Jen Wilson recorded a season-high 17 kills as NAU improved to 3-0 on the young season and Utah Valley dropped to 2-1.

Dallmann, who averaged 11.00 assists and 2.92 digs per set over the weekend, was named tournament MVP, while junior libero Anna Gott (4.00 digs per set) was named the tournament's Top Defensive Player. NAU senior Katie Bailey and junior Lexi Sullivan were also named to the All-Tournament team.

"I'm ecstatic," said NAU head coach Craig Choate. "This morning we fought back from a huge hole and capitalized on our opportunities, while tonight both teams were playing great volleyball and we had some big plays to pull out the victory. I think this weekend will really get us to start believing that we are a quality program."

Against host Utah Valley, which had also gone 2-0 to begin the tournament, the match was tight from the beginning, with the Wolverines rallying back from a 24-23 deficit to pull out a 26-24 first set win. The Lumberjacks would build a 22-18 lead in the second set but Utah Valley would come back to even the score at 24-24. From there, NAU would get a kill from Dallmann and capitalize on a ball handling error by Utah Valley to take the second set.

The third set began much the same way as the first two sets, with the team trading points en route to a 10-10 tie and eventually a 21-21 stalemate. NAU moved within one point of victory on a kill by Bailey and then won the set on a block by Bailey and Dallmann to take a 2-1 lead. NAU jumped to a 10-6 lead in the third set, but Utah Valley would battle back an again force a late tied score at 25-25. Bailey took over from there with a kill and a service ace to give NAU the 3-1 victory.

Bailey hit .368 for the match and .327 for the weekend while also averaging 1.08 blocks per set en route to her All-Tournament team selection. Sullivan posted 15 kills for the contest and averaged 3.58 kills for the tournament, while Gott notched a match-high 18 digs. Senior Kobi Christensen narrowly missed her second double-double of the day with 13 kills and nine digs, finishing the tournament with an average of 3.92 kills and 2.42 digs per set.   

To begin play on Saturday, NAU dropped the first two sets but withstood a match point in the third set and took the fourth and fifth sets to complete a 3-2 comeback victory over Illinois State at the Wolverine Invitational in Orem, Utah (20-25, 19-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-11). Double-doubles from Christensen and Dallmann propelled the Lumberjacks to a second consecutive win to open the season, while Illinois State dropped to 0-2.

The Redbirds jumped to a first set win as NAU hit just .156 in the opening frame while committing six attack errors. Illinois State recorded its best set in the second stanza, hitting .371 to take what appeared to be a commanding 2-0 lead.

NAU responded in the third set, however, bouncing back from an early 12-7 deficit to eventually even the score at 20-20. Illinois State would move to a point from victory, but a service error by Kaitlyn Early and an attack error by Tabitha Visk gave the Lumberjacks a 25-24 lead. Sullivan would close the set with a kill assisted by Dallmann to force a fourth set.

In the fourth, the Lumberjacks hit a game-best .371, fuelled by six kills and five digs from Christensen, to pull away late and force a fifth and deciding set. After the set was tied 11-11, NAU would take the next four points, capped by a kill from Christensen on a Redbird block error, to completed the improbable comeback and take the match despite hitting -.107 in the final set.

Christensen finished with 22 kills and 14 digs for her first double-double of the season while Dallmann recorded 47 assists and 16 digs. Gott and freshman Kalee Kirby also reached double figures in digs with 21 and 14, respectively, while freshman Sydney Kemper notched seven total blocks.

NAU returns home to host New Mexico, San Jose State and Hampton next Friday and Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament. The Lumberjacks will open play Friday night at 7 p.m. against San Jose State.

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