FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona (11-0, 2-0 BSC) remains one of only seven undefeated NCAA Division-I volleyball teams (out of 321 total NCAA D-I teams). NAU has equaled its best season start in program history and can surpass the 1991 team and its 11-0 start with a win on Thursday against Sacramento State (5-8, 0-0 BSC), which has lost five consecutive matches. The Lumberjacks have never won in Sacramento in program history, however, with a 0-17 record since the teams first met in Sacramento in 1996.
As one of only seven remaining undefeated teams in the nation, Northern Arizona is among elite company entering play this week. Of the six other undefeated schools, five are ranked in the AVCA Top 25, including No. 1 Cal and No. 3 Illinois, while another is receiving votes in the poll. Only two other undefeated teams (San Diego and Bowling Green) are not from major conferences. TCU was the latest undefeated team to fall, dropping a 3-0 match to No. 8 Texas on Tuesday.
While certainly conscious of their unblemished record, the Lumberjacks began Big Sky play last week with the mindset that they were 0-0. NAU began conference play as it ended the non-conference season, needing only seven sets to record a pair of wins over Montana State and Montana. The Lumberjacks hit .230 as a team for the opening week of conference play while limiting their opposition to a cumulative .110 hitting average. NAU also continued to dominate from the service line, connecting for 15 aces (2.14 aces per set) while allowing only three aces.
A week into conference play, Northern Arizona is among the Big Sky leaders in every statistical category. NAU is in the top-three in every major statistical category and leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage and service aces. NAU's opponent hitting percentage of .112 is nearly 40 points better than the next closest conference team (Northern Colorado, .149). Every other conference team also has at least four losses.
Individually, NAU has the Big Sky leaders in kills (Kobi Christensen, 3.77/set), assists (Kelli Dallmann, 10.46/set), service aces (Dallmann, 0.38/set) and blocks (Sydney Kemper, 1.20/set). Lexi Sullivan is tied for second in aces per set (0.32), while Katie Bailey is tied for second in blocks (1.10 per set) and is third in hitting percentage (.275).
Sacramento State was the only Big Sky team to not begin conference play last weekend. The Hornets enter conference play on a five match losing streak, the fourth longest such streak in program history. Included in the Hornets' losses is a 3-0 defeat by Utah Valley, a team NAU defeated twice (3-1 and 3-2) earlier this season. Sacramento State is 2-2 in home matches thus far this season.
The Hornets lead the Big Sky in blocks (2.49 per set) and digs (17.35 per set) and are second in the conference, behind NAU, in service aces (1.22 per set). Individually, senior Breanna Menees leads the conference and is 36th in the country with 5.13 digs per set and senior Kelsey Elston is fourth in the Big Sky with 1.04 blocks per set. Though NAU has never won at Sacramento State, each of the last three meetings between the teams in Sacramento has gone five sets. NAU is just 8-27 all-time against the Hornets.
NAU Volleyball Best Season Starts (Through 11 Matches)
Year - Record - Finish
2011 - 11-0 - ???
1991 - 11-0 - 26-8, NIVC Championship Participant
2008 - 10-1 - 15-10
1981 - 9-2 - 12-11
2001 - 8-3 - 16-7
1999 - 8-3 - 19-10, Big Sky Champion, NCAA Tournament
1994 - 8-3 - 11-16
1992 - 8-3 - 17-11
1983 - 8-3 - 19-10