FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior libero Anna Gott recorded 30 digs to move to second all-time in career digs in NAU history and freshman Kalee Kirby posted her first career double-double as NAU forced Big Sky champion Northern Colorado to a fourth set in a 3-1 season-ending loss in Rolle Activity Center (25-20, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19). NAU ended its season at 15-10 overall and 6-10 in the Big Sky while the Bears clinched the regular season conference title and improved to 20-8 overall and 13-3 in conference play.
"I thought we played really well, we just played really well against the first-place team," said NAU head coach Craig Choate. "You cannot question how hard we played so I'm happy with that. I think we are building in the right direction; going from 10-15 last year to 15-10 this season is a great improvement."
After honoring graduating seniors Katie Bailey, Kobi Christensen, and Sam Hodgkins prior to the contest, Northern Colorado jumped to an early lead by limiting NAU to a .043 hitting percentage in the opening set to take a 25-20 win. The Lumberjacks responded in the second, starting the set with a 7-0 lead. NAU maintained a comfortable advantage throughout the set, hitting .375 to score an easy 25-17 win and level the match at 1-1.
The Bears had their best effort in the third set, hitting .318 with 17 kills to take a 2-1 match lead. The fourth set was the closest stanza, with the teams totaling eight ties and five lead changes for the duration. After NAU took a 16-15 lead, Northern Colorado went on a 7-0 run to open up a 22-16 lead and closed the set strong to earn a 25-19 win and a match victory.
Gott needed just 20 digs entering the match to move past Brittany Stowers into second on the all-time NAU digs list, and she recorded her 20th dig early in the fourth set. She finished with 30 digs to end with 465 digs for the season, the third-best single season dig total in program history, and 1,305 digs in her three years at NAU.
UNC hit .238 while limiting Northern Arizona to a .124 hitting percentage and outblocking the Lumberjacks 12-6. Kirby started at setter and totaled 44 assists and 13 digs, while junior Kelli Dallmann shifted to outside hitter and posted 12 kills and nine digs. Junior Jen Wilson recorded nine kills, 11 digs and three blocks for NAU, which equaled its highest season win total (15) since 2001. The Lumberjacks started the season with a school-record 12-0 winning streak, with only two NCAA Division-I teams in the country reaming undefeated longer than the Lumberjacks.
Bailey had nine kills in her final NAU contest and spoke after the match about the bright future for her teammates.
"It's always hard to end a sport you have played your whole life so it's bittersweet," said Bailey. "I'm content with our season and my career, and I know the program is heading in the right direction and will only get better and better.