FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Backed by double-digit kills from junior Lexi Sullivan and freshman Sydney Kemper and 47 assists from junior Kelli Dallmann, NAU outlasted Montana for a 3-1 victory on Saturday afternoon in Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks moved to 11-0, equaling the 1991 team for the best start in program history and remaining one of only eight undefeated NCAA Division-I teams in the nation. The Lumberjacks also improved to 2-0 in conference play, while Montana dropped to 3-7 overall and 0-2 in the Big Sky.
"Good teams realize when they are in a tough situation and they step up, and that's what we did," said NAU head coach Craig Choate. "Lexi Sullivan and Lauren Campbell really stepped up in the absence of Kobi Christensen. I wondered about the team as a whole going in, but we just took things in stride and I am really proud of the whole team."
Christensen, who entered the match leading the Big Sky in kills, was unable to play after sustaining an injury during practice on Friday. Her teammates came out firing in the opening set, as NAU had 14 kills and just one attack error while hitting .565 to dominate the set, 25-10.
The second set was a much tighter affair, as neither team led by more than three points and the teams had 16 ties and seven lead changes for the duration. After a 23-23 tie, consecutive Montana Kills from Kayla Reno and Amy Roberts gave the Grizzlies the set to even the match at 1-1.
After the third set was even at 18-18, the Lumberjacks would capitalize on three attack errors and add four kills of their own to take seven of the next eight points and pull away for a 25-19 win. Montana would not go quietly in the fourth, taking an early 10-6 lead before the Lumberjacks came back even. The score would be tied 23-23, but an NAU attack error put the Grizzlies one point away from forcing a fifth set. The Lumberjacks responded with a kill from junior Jen Wilson, and an ensuing attack error by Montana gave NAU a match point. Kemper, who had a spectacular third set to help NAU close out Montana State on Thursday, put an exclamation point on her week, connecting for a career-high 13th kill of the match to give NAU the win.
Kemper also added 3 blocks to her stat line, as she hit .320 for the match and totaled 21 kills, a .457 hitting percentage, and seven block in two matches this week. Sullivan posted a season-best 16 kills while hitting .333, while Wilson and Campbell each added nine kills. Dallmann recorded six digs and a team-high five blocks to go with her 47 assists, while Wilson, junior Anna Gott, and freshman Kalee Kirby each reached double digits in digs. NAU hit .245 as a team for the match while limiting Montana to a team .171 hitting percentage.
Northern Arizona will play its next four matches on the road, starting next Thursday at Sacramento State at 7 p.m.