ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team was swept in the finale of the Lobo Invitational by host New Mexico on Saturday night, 25-12, 25-20, 25-14, as the Lumberjacks fell to 6-3 on the season heading into next week's Big Sky opener versus Idaho State. Sophomore Trianna Henry represented the Lumberjacks on the Lobo Invitational all-tournament team after registering a match-high 15 digs and finishing the tournament with an average of 4.44 digs per set.
"I really liked our defensive intensity tonight and the way we worked," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We struggled to get into an offensive rhythm but some of that had to do with New Mexico. They blocked and played defense really well and we need to continue to work on how we play against really big teams like them."
The Lobos controlled the match throughout as forced the Lumberjacks to .000 hitting, their lowest hitting percentage of the season. In the first set, New Mexico jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held a double-digit advantage throughout the set as they cruised to a 25-12 win.
NAU responded in the second set and matched New Mexico point for point as the set was tied at 11-11 only for New Mexico to put distance between itself and NAU with a 7-1 run. The Lumberjacks stuck with the Lobos the rest of the set but was not able to get closer than three points at 22-19 before UNM closed out the set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
A solo block by junior Taylor Stephens gave NAU its lone lead in the third set at 4-3, but New Mexico used four separate spurts of at least three consecutive points to forge ahead 20-9. A kill by Stephens and a service ace by junior Erin Truett temporarily halted the Lobos' momentum but it was not enough as UNM handed NAU its second three-set loss of the day to close out the tournament.
The Lumberjacks limited the Lobos to hitting percentages of .154 and .171 in the first two sets but was undone by hitting -.079 and .081 themselves. New Mexico's block – it held a 14.0-3.0 advantage in blocks – was a big reason for NAU's offensive inefficiency as only Stephens (.273) hit higher than .000 for the match. Stephens, junior Sydney Kemper and sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg each had a team-high five kills.
NAU finishes non-conference play with a 6-3 mark and the tournament title at the Tribe Invitational to open the season. A sweep of San Diego State, a 2012 NCAA Tournament team, to begin its Fiesta Bowl Tournament last week was a signature victory.
The Lumberjacks begin Big Sky play at home next week with two matches. They will host Idaho State, the Big Sky runner-up a year ago, on Thursday at 7 p.m. and will then welcome Weber State to the Rolle Activity Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Idaho State match on Thursday will be televised live by NAU-TV and will be shown live on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox College Sports and Fox College Sports Pacific.