CHENEY, Wash. – After taking a 2-0 lead NAU had to fend off a strong rally from Eastern Washington for a hard fought 3-1 (25-22, 25-18, 28-30, 28-26) win over the Eagles on Friday night in Cheney, Wash. Senior Kelli Dallmann led the Lumberjacks with 16 kills and 13 digs as NAU won its second of three road matches over the last five days and improved to 12-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky while the Eagles remained winless in 2012 at 0-17 overall and 0-6 in conference play.
"We were up and in control of things but we just took our foot off the pedal," NAU head coach Craig Choate said. "We're not a super physical team and we just grinded it out. Going home after this week I think we're right on course for where we want to be."
NAU jumped to a 7-3 lead to open the match before the Eagles battled back to even the score at 8-8. The Lumberjacks would build back to an 18-13 cushion but Eastern Washington would fight back again and get within one point at 22-21. Leading 23-22, NAU got consecutive kills from freshman Janae Vander Ploeg and senior Jen Wilson to take the set 25-22.
The Eagles again stayed close to the Lumberjacks in the second set, trailing 9-8 before NAU used a 5-0 run to pull away. Eastern Washington hit just .019 in the set with 11 attack errors as the Lumberjacks extended to a 20-13 lead and closed out the set on a pair of Eagle errors to take a 2-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks took a 6-2 lead in the third and maintained a lead until the Eagles knotted it up at 15-15. NAU would maintain a slim lead and have three match points up 24-21, but Eastern rallied with four consecutive points to have a set point of its own at 26-25. The Lumberjacks stayed alive in the set and would have two more match points that the Eagles withstood before taking a 29-28 lead. A kill from EWU senior Cora Kellerman brought the set to a close and forced a fourth.
For the first time in the match the Eagles would jump to a quick lead in the fourth set, taking a 10-5 advantage before NAU chipped away and eventually drew even at 15-15. The Lumberjacks took their first lead in the set at 20-19 and had a first match point of the set at 24-23. EWU rallied with two points to reach a set point of its own, which NAU withstood to get another match point at 26-25. The Eagles withstood another, but at 27-26, on NAU's eighth match point opportunity, a kill from freshman Payton Bock brought the match to a close.
NAU hit .180 for the match but held EWU to a .124 hitting percentage and had a 14-10 advantage in blocks. Bock totaled 11 kills and equaled her career high with nine blocks, including three solo blocks. Senior Anna Gott had 28 digs after breaking the NAU career digs record last night at Portland State, and sophomore Kalee Kirby notched 50 assists. Kellerman led the Eagles with 19 kills and 18 digs.
After playing three road matches in five days and 14 of its first 15 matches of the season on the road, NAU returns home for a pair of matches next week starting with Montana State next Thursday at 7 p.m.