FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After narrowly getting by Montana State in the first two sets, NAU broke the match open in the third set, led by five kills and two blocks in the set from freshman Sydney Kemper, to complete a 3-0 sweep of Montana State in both teams' Big Sky opener (25-20, 25-22, 25-12). NAU remained one of only 11 undefeated NCAA Division-I volleyball teams in the nation, improving to 10-0, while Montana State remained winless at 0-11.
"It's in the back of their minds now that we've got something going, and as a result we came out tight," said head coach Craig Choate. "We're going to be the target now. We went in and talked things over after the second set, and in the third we obviously looked a whole lot loser and played well."
NAU opened up an 11-5 lead in the first set, but a 7-1 run from the Bobcats evened the score at 12-12. The set would remain close, with the teams eventually knotted at 20-20, before NAU made its move. A pair of kills from senior Katie Bailey and a kill from senior Kobi Christensen gave NAU a 23-20 lead, and consecutive Montana State attack errors would give NAU the set, 25-20, despite hitting just .065 as a team.
The second set was even tighter than the first, with 15 ties and four lead changes for the duration. After neither team had led by more than three points and the set score was even at 22-22, the Lumberjacks got a kill by Kemper and Montana State again committed consecutive attack errors as NAU took a 2-0 lead.
After the intermission, the Lumberjacks took control of the match, jumping to a quick 13-4 advantage and forcing an MSU timeout. With the score 18-9, Kemper would go on a run of her own, recording three kills and a block within a five-point window. The match would end on a kill by Lumberjack junior Lexi Sullivan as NAU opened conference play with a victory to remain undefeated on the season.
Kemper, who entered the match as the Big Sky leader with 1.20 blocks per set, finished the night with four blocks and a team-high eight kills with an .800 hitting percentage. Christensen added seven kills, seven digs and three blocks while Bailey and Sullivan each finished with six kills as NAU hit .205 for the match. Montana State hit just .028 and committed 31 attack errors to go with 34 kills.
The Lumberjacks can equal the best start in program history (11-0 by the 1991 team) when they host Montana on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Rolle Activity Center. The Grizzlies are 3-6 after falling to Northern Colorado, 3-0, on Thursday.