Volleyball to Play at UNM Tourney in Final Tune-Up for Big Sky
Lobo Invitational Information:
Opponent: Abilene Christian (Friday, Sept. 13/3:30 p.m.)
Opponent: Towson (Saturday, Sept. 14/9:30 a.m.)
Opponent: New Mexico (Saturday, Sept. 14/6:30 p.m.)
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Video (of UNM Match): www.golobos.com
Live Stats: www.golobos.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Coming off an impressive 2-1 weekend at home and runner-up finish in its Fiesta Bowl Tournament, the Northern Arizona volleyball team heads out to Albuquerque, N.M. for this weekend's Lobo Invitational. There the Lumberjacks will play Abilene Christian on Friday before their Saturday doubleheader against Towson and host New Mexico. The Lobos' home tournament will be NAU's final non-conference preparation before its Big Sky opener next Thursday at home versus Idaho State.
Last weekend, the Lumberjacks fell just shy of winning their annual home tourney when they dropped their first match of the season to Cal State Northridge in the championship match. Prior to that, NAU swept San Diego State, a 2012 NCAA Tournament team, and Idaho for its fourth and fifth straight sweeps to open the 2013 season. Junior Sydney Kemper and sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg earned all-tournament honors as the Lumberjacks carry a 5-1 record with them to Albuquerque.
With freshman Jensen Barton running the show in her first collegiate season dishing out 201 total assists, the Lumberjacks have all six of their starters averaging at least nine swings per match including Barton herself. Four players - junior Taylor Stephens, Barton, sophomore Payton Bock and freshman Addy Lofstedt - rank among the top seven in the Big Sky in hitting percentage with a clip upwards of .291 and four players average at least 2.00 kills per set.
Series History: The Lumberjacks will be facing both Abilene Christian and Towson for the first time in school history. Their history with New Mexico extends all the way back to 1974 on the other hand as the two teams have each won 11 of the 22 all-time meetings. NAU won the last meeting in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl Tournament championship match in five sets.
Coach Ken Murphy Quote for the Week: "We've been working on trusting our style of play and knowing that if we execute, the results will come the way we want. On Saturday we got away from that and we want to challenge ourselves to get back to trusting that. That's the biggest focus this weekend."
Quote from Payton Bock: "We've been watching film and focusing on the things that we didn't do well last weekend. In practice we've been working on those key points and that's helping to prepare us for this week and for conference."
About Abilene Christian (3-2): Abilene Christian rebounded from its three-set loss to Texas Tech last week with a big 3-1 win over the Red Raiders on Tuesday at home. With the win, the Wildcats improved to 3-2 this season - their first as a NCAA Division I member in the Southland Conference. The Wildcats own victories over Louisiana Tech and Grambling State in addition to Texas Tech through their first five matches.
After a match-high 16 kills in the Wildcats' bounce-back victory over Texas Tech on Tuesday, Jennifer Loerch is averaging a team-high 3.17 kills per set which is the eighth best average in the conference. Lexi Mercier has been a force in the middle as a true freshman, ranking second on the team in kills behind Loerch with 1.80 per set and a conference-best 1.70 blocks per set.
About Towson (3-6): Towson enters the Lobo Invitational coming off a three-set loss to UMBC on Tuesday that dropped its record to 3-6 in 2013. The Tigers had previously wrapped up play at the N.C. State Tournament last weekend with a 1-2 mark, edging out Binghampton in five sets in their tournament opener that had extended their win streak at the time to three matches.
The Tigers are led by Saitaua Iosia and Victoria Williams who both averaged more than two and a half kills per set. Iosia leads the team with 2.91 per set while Williams is not far behind at 2.62 per set after posting a match-high 13 kills in the team's loss to UMBC. Kelsey Polak handles the setting duties and averages 7.73 assists per set.
About New Mexico (5-1): New Mexico will host its second consecutive tournament after improving to 5-1 this season following a 3-0 performance last weekend at its Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic. The Lobos swept both UC Riverside and defending 2012 Big Sky runner-up Idaho State before knocking off Georgia Tech in four sets. The Lobos' lone loss this season was to Arkansas in five sets at the University of Arkansas Invitational.
Chantale Riddle leads four Lobos in the top 65 individually in the national rankings as she ranks 41st in the country in kills per set (4.05) and 42nd in points per set (4.64). Riddle, the Mountain West Conference leader in kills and points, was the unanimous tournament MVP last week after totaling 45 kills in New Mexico's three victories. Hannah Johnson is tied for second in the conference with four double-doubles and she is 64th nationally at 10.62 assists per set.
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