FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The NAU volleyball team (15-7, 6-7 BSC) plays its final road matches this week, needing wins at Weber State (2-23, 2-10 BSC) on Friday and Idaho State (13-11, 6-6 BSC) on Saturday to keep its Big Sky Championship hopes alive. The Lumberjacks have three regular season contest remaining and begin the week tied for sixth place in the Big Sky standings, with the top-four teams to advance to the postseason tournament.
"We still have a chance, so we're going to fight," said junior Lexi Sullivan, who had a team-high 18 kills in NAU's loss to Portland State last Saturday. "We need to practice really hard and just keep going to try to close strong and give ourselves a chance."
The Lumberjacks remain mathematically alive for a berth in the Big Sky Championship but will likely need to win each of their three remaining contests and get some help. If NAU could reach Sacramento State for fourth place in the conference, the Lumberjacks would own the tiebreaker with the Hornets by virtue of beating them twice this season. Idaho State and Montana also have the same number of conference wins as the Lumberjacks (6), however, making the task more challenging. Only Weber State and Montana State have been eliminated from postseason contention.
NAU played Portland State and Eastern Washington, currently in second and third place, respectively, in the Big Sky standings, very closely last week but was unable to come away with victories. On Thursday, the Eagles narrowly won the first two sets by just three and two points, with NAU rallying back to force a fifth set before EWU claimed the victory. The Lumberjacks started very well against Portland State, winning the first set and leading 19-11 in the second set before the Vikings won 12 consecutive points to win the second and went on to take the third and fourth sets.
Junior libero Anna Gott is just 50 digs away from passing Brittany Stowers for second all-time in career digs in program history. Gott has 405 digs this season, currently the ninth highest season total in school history, and would tie her own mark for the third highest season digs average at 4.60. She has averaged 5.09 digs per set in 14 conference matches after averaging 3.86 digs per set in non-conference play. Gott has recorded double-digit digs in 19 of 22 matches this season and 17 consecutive matches. She also has eight matches this season with 20 or more digs.
Though NAU struggled with hitting in its two matches last week, the Lumberjacks battled in both matches due in large part to their blocking. NAU reached double-digit team blocks in both matches, starting with a 10 block performance vs Eastern Washington. NAU came back with 11 blocks against Portland State, including a career-high seven total blocks from junior Kelli Dallmann, who totaled 11 blocks over the two matches. Senior Katie Bailey posted nine total blocks while freshman Sydney Kemper had seven, as NAU has recorded double-digit blocks in four straight matches after failing to do so in its six prior matches.
Weber State shocked NAU with its first win of the season in Flagstaff on Oct. 15, a 3-0 sweep. Weber State limited the Lumberjacks to a .111 hitting percentage, outblocking NAU 11.5 to 2.0 and hitting .254 for the match. The Wildcats have recorded one more win since then, a 3-1 home victory over Idaho State on Oct. 27, , and dropped a 3-1 non conference match to Southern Utah on Monday.
Idaho State has had a wildly inconsistent season, having defeated conference leading Northern Colorado and second place Portland State on the road but losing to both Montana State and Weber State, the bottom-two teams in the conference. ISU scored a 3-1 win over NAU in Flagstaff on Oct. 13, hitting .212 while the Lumberjacks hit just .120 and committed 10 service errors. The Bengals rank near the bottom of the Big Sky in most statistical categories, ranking sixth or lower in all categories other than service aces, in which they are fourth with 1.15 per set. NAU has lost its last five matches against Idaho State and last won in Pocatello in 2008.