BOULDER, Colo. - After rallying for a highly competitive 3-1 (24-26, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19) win to open play on Saturday vs host Colorado, NAU cruised to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-17) sweep of Cornell to go 3-0 for the weekend and win the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic. The Lumberjacks improved to 6-0 on the season and won their second nonconference tournament, extending their impressive nonconference winning streak to 15 matches dating back to last season.
"We passed fabulous all weekend long so that allowed us to be in our offense the whole time," said NAU head coach Craig Choate. "They should be feeling good because everybody contributed. They should be happy and confident as a group."
Senior Kelli Dallmann contributed 3.73 kills and 2.82 digs per set and was named MVP of the tournament, her second consecutive such honor. Freshman Janae Vander Ploeg had 11 kills against Cornell after posting career highs of 21 kills and 12 digs for her second consecutive double-double against Colorado and was named to the All-Tournament team. Playing for the first time as a collegian in her home state, Vander Ploeg averaged 3.91 kills and 2.45 digs per set during the tournament while hitting .242. Senior libero Anna Gott was also an All-Tournament selection after averaging 5.00 digs per set with four service aces.
"She was just a rock," said Choate in regards to Vander Ploeg. "She passed well and hit well, and even when the numbers weren't fabulous it was all good. Janae just had a fabulous weekend."
NAU made quick work of Cornell in the first set, building a double-digit lead early at 18-8. Despite being outhit in the opening stanza the Lumberjacks had a comfortable lead through the set en route to a 25-16 win. Action was much closer in the second as the score would be even at 19-19. The Lumberjacks would pull away late, closing on a 6-1 run and consecutive kills to end the set by Kemper to give NAU the 2-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks opened with a 7-1 lead in the third set and never looked back. The Big Red would climb within four points at 20-16, but NAU would get a kill from Dallmann, capitalize on three Cornell attack errors, and clinch the tournament on a kill be freshman Payton Bock to claim the set 25-17. NAU outhit Cornell .242-.122, as the team has allowed only one team (CSU Bakersfield) to hit above .200 through six matches this season.
In Saturday's opener vs Colorado, NAU rallied from a first set loss to score a win for the third time in a string of four matches. Vander Ploeg, Dallmann, and sophomore Kalee Kirby each tallied double-doubles, with Kirby totaling a career-high 51 assists. Kemper hit .421 with 10 kills and five blocks as NAU outhit Colorado .217 to .188 and had a 67-57 advantage in digs.
A very competitive first set established the tone for the match. A quick 6-1 start for the Buffaloes forced an early NAU timeout, but the Lumberjacks would rally back to even the score at 8-8. Neither team would lead by more than three points for the remainder of the set, with Colorado eventually taking a 24-22 lead. NAU withstood a pair of match points to level the set at 24-24, but a Colorado kill and an NAU attack error would give the home team the opening set.
NAU took control of the second set early, jumping to a 3-0 lead and extending to a 10-5 advantage. The Buffaloes hit a match-low .104 for the set and NAU led for the duration, holding as big as a seven point advantage and closing on a block by Kemper and Kirby to take the set 25-21.
The third set would return to the back-and-forth pattern of the first with the teams trading leads before Colorado created some separation with a 17-12 cushion. NAU would chip away at the deficit and eventually even the score at 21-21 following a 9-4 run. Tied at 22-22, the Lumberjacks got two kills from Vander Ploeg and clinched the set on a Colorado attack error to take a 2-1 lead.
The Lumberjacks would control the fourth set from the onset after taking an early 7-1 lead. NAU hit a match-best .378 in the set, with Vander Ploeg totaling seven kills as NAU never trailed in the deciding stanza and cruised to a 25-19 win.
NAU will put its impressive nonconference streak on the line in its third and final tournament of the season next weekend at the Molten Classic Presented by Hilton Garden Inn to be hosted by No. 25 Cal in Berkeley, Calif., opening vs. UC Riverside next Friday at 5 p.m.