FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – NAU rallied to win the third and fourth sets after Eastern Washington narrowly won the first two sets, but the Eagles hit .474 in fifth set to take the deciding frame 15-10 and win the match, 3-2 (25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 22-25, 15-10). The Lumberjacks lost a fifth set for the first time this season, dropping to 15-6 overall and 6-6 in Big Sky play, while Eastern Washington moved to 9-4 in the conference and 13-11 overall.
"I thought we were just half a step slow through the first part of the match," said NAU head coach Craig Choate. "Set five is a total crapshoot; whoever gets ahead first usually ends up taking it. They got ahead and were able to pull away to win it."
After Eastern Washington took a 2-0 lead before NAU rallied to pull out a 3-2 win earlier this season in Cheney, the Eagles again jumped to an early lead Thursday, outhitting NAU .220 to .093 in the opening set to take a 1-0 lead. The second set had 11 ties and five lead changes, with the Eagles breaking a 21-21 tie with a 4-2 run to take a 2-0 match lead.
NAU came out strong in the third set, opening with a 4-0 lead and maintaining an advantage until Eastern Washington leveled the set at 18-18. The set would remain even at 25-25, but the Lumberjacks closed with a kill from junior Lauren Campbell and an Eagle attack error to force a fourth set. Neither team hit well in the fourth, with NAU outhitting Eastern Washington -.059 to -.095. With the set level at 22-22, Eastern Washington committed three consecutive attack errors, with one NAU block, as the match moved to a deciding fifth set.
The deciding fifth set was level at 6-6 before the Eagles went on a run to open a 9-6 lead. NAU called a timeout down 11-7, and was forced to call another timeout down 13-8. The Lumberjacks withstood one match point on a kill from freshman Sydney Kemper, but an Eagle kill by junior Cora Kellerman, their 11th kill on 19 attacks in the set, gave Eastern Washington the victory.
Eastern Washington outhit NAU for the match, .167 to .135, and totaled a 17.0 to 10.0 advantage in blocks, the most blocks against NAU this season in conference play. Campbell led the Lumberjacks with 17 kills on a .262 hitting percentage, while Kemper and junior Lexi Sullivan also reach double-digits in kills. Junior setter Kelli Dallmann had an outstanding all-around night, totaling 45 assists, 12 digs, four blocks, two service aces, and four kills on a .571 hitting percentage. Junior libero Anna Gott led three Lumberjacks with double-digit blocks with 21. NAU had gone 6-0 this season in five set matches before the setback.
The Lumberjacks return to action on Saturday, hosting Portland State at 7 p.m. in Rolle Activity Center. The Vikings dropped to 9-4 in the Big Sky and 13-12 overall with a three-set loss Thursday at Northern Colorado, and are now tied with Eastern Washington for second place in the conference.