FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The undefeated NAU volleyball team concludes non-conference play this weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo. at the Falcon Invitational. At 6-0, Northern Arizona is off to its best season start since the 1991 team began its year 11-0 and played in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, one of only two postseason appearances in program history. The Lumberjacks will open play against South Carolina Upstate (2-4) on Friday before facing Utah Valley (6-2) and host Air Force (2-5) on Saturday.
In addition to being the only undefeated team in the Big Sky, NAU leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.111) and service aces per set (1.25) and is second in kills per set (12.87), hitting percentage (.216) and assists per set (11.96). The Lumberjacks have earned both Big Sky Volleyball Player of the Week awards this season, with senior Kobi Christensen adding the award Monday after being named MVP of the Fiesta Bowl Tournament. Junior Kelli Dallmann was MVP of the Wolverine Invitational during the first week of the season and took home the first Player of the Week award of the season.
Christensen leads the Big Sky with 4.13 kills per set. In addition to her MVP honors, NAU also had two other players named to the Fiesta Bowl All-Tournament team. Dallmann was named to her second all-tournament team in as many weeks and leads the Big Sky with 10.65 assists per set and 0.48 aces per set. Freshman middle blocker Sydney Kemper earned her first collegiate honor and leads the conference with 1.25 blocks per set.
A year after going 3-0 and winning the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in 2010, NAU produced a repeat performance in their home tournament last weekend. The Lumberjacks swept San Jose State and Hampton and outlasted New Mexico, 3-2, to claim the tournament championship for the fourth time in the last five years and the 13th time overall. NAU is now 46-12 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament, good for a .793 winning percentage. In six matches in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in 2010 and 2011, Christensen combined for 96 kills (4.57 kills per set), a .365 hitting percentage, 38 digs and 62 service receptions without a single error, earning consecutive MVP awards.
NAU Volleyball Best Season Starts (Through Six Matches)
Year - Record - Finish
2011 - 6-0 - ???
1991 - 6-0 - 26-8, NIVC Championship Participant
1981 - 6-0 - 12-11
2008 - 5-1 - 15-10
2001 - 5-1 - 16-7
2000 - 5-1 - 18-7, Big Sky Co-Champion
1992 - 5-1 - 17-11
Scouting South Carolina Upstate (2-4)
The Spartans are 2-4 after going 1-3 in each of their first two tournaments of the season. The team has 3-0 wins over Western Carolina and Chicago State but has also taken a trio of 3-0 losses. South Carolina Upstate, located in Spartanburg, S.C. and a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, has hit just .153 as a team this season and has been outblocked 46.5 to 23 on the year. The squad has been led by junior Mindy Quimby's 2.68 kills per set and sophomore Morgan Page's 4.20 digs per set. NAU and SC Upstate will be meeting in volleyball for the first time.
Scouting Utah Valley (6-2)
NAU and Utah Valley will be meeting for the second time this season, a rarity among non-conference opponents. The squads first met on August 27 in the Utah Valley-hosted Wolverine Invitational, with NAU rallying for a 3-1 victory to win the tournament championship. The biggest set victory in that match was only three points, with junior Jen Wilson leading NAU with 17 kills. Utah Valley's Chelsey Heaps and Lindsay Barker each had 15 kills in the match, with Heaps adding a team-high 17 digs. The Wolverines have gone 4-1 since that match, including wins over Syracuse and Cal Poly, with their only loss coming against No. 24 Michigan.
Scouting Air Force (2-5)
Air Force begins the week at 2-5 with wins over Navy and Bryant. Among the Falcons losses was a 3-1 defeat by fellow Big Sky member Northern Colorado. Like NAU in the Big Sky, Air Force leads the Mountain West with 1.88 service aces per set. Ayesha Hein and Cami Richan are tied for the team lead with 2.92 kills per set while Maiya Perich averages 4.56 digs per set. The Falcons hit .155 as a team while allowing an opponent hitting percentage of .228. NAU is 1-2 all time against Air Force but scored a 3-1 win the last time the schools met in 2002.
No Fly Zone
Through six matches, NAU has yet to allow an opponent to hit over .200 and has a Big Sky leading .111 opponent hitting percentage. The Lumberjacks have limited two opponents to negative hitting percentages (San Jose State, -.056, and Hampton, -.044) and have recorded eight sets with an opponent hitting percentage of .000 or below.
Welcome to the Show
Four of the five NAU freshmen have seen action thus far in 2011, with a pair of newcomers moving into the starting lineup. Kalee Kirby has played in all 23 sets this year with four starts and has contributed 2.22 digs per set and a .984 service reception percentage. Middle Blocker Sydney Kemper has started five matches while posting a Big Sky-best 1.25 blocks per set to go with 1.15 kills per set. 6' 3" middle blocker Hannah Fitzgerald started the season opening match and has played in four sets, while outside hitter Taylor Stephens has played in three matches and has four kills and one block assist.
Until We Meet Again
Head coach Craig Choate made his first coaching appearance against San Jose State last Friday, the school at which he served as the head coach for 14 years from 1993 to 2007. The match was the first time that Choate has coached against a former team, as he has not yet faced New Mexico State, where he began his head coaching career from 1990 to 1992. Choate compiled a 244-191 record during his time in San Jose, including five 20 wins seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the second round once. After NAU defeated San Jose State, 3-0, Choate admitted to having a little extra excitement in defeating his former team.
Happy Birthday To...
Senior outside hitter Katie Bailey turned 21 on Wednesday, the first of five in-season birthdays for the Lumberjacks. If NAU reaches the Big Sky Championship final, a sixth Lumberjack, freshman Taylor Stephens, will celebrate her birthday on that day (November 26).