Opponent: Idaho State (Thursday, Sept. 19/7:00 p.m.)
Opponent: Weber State (Saturday, Sept. 21/7:30 p.m.)
Location: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Live Stats: www.nauathletics.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Northern Arizona volleyball team opens Big Sky play this week with Idaho State and Weber State coming to the Rolle Activity Center this Thursday and Saturday. The Lumberjacks look to improve on their performance from a week ago at the Lobo Invitational as they finished the UNM tournament with a pair of three-set losses to Towson and New Mexico following a sweep of Abilene Christian in their opening match. NAU lost two consecutive matches for the first time since last Sept. 8 and 14 at California and at Idaho State.
Sophomore libero Trianna Henry was the team's standout last weekend as she picked up her first all-tournament selection of her career. She recorded 40 digs over the weekend at an average of 4.44 digs per set and notched at least 12 digs in all three matches. Sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg continues to lead the team in kills (3.11 per set) and points (99.0) and has totaled double-digit kills in five of the team's nine matches this season, while junior Sydney Kemper and freshman Addy Lofstedt are both averaging more than 2.50 kills per set as well.
Series History: NAU will play Idaho State for the first time since the Bengals knocked the Lumberjacks out of the Big Sky Conference semifinals last year in four sets. During the regular season, both teams won on their home courts as Idaho State won the first meeting in Pocatello, Idaho, 3-1, before the Lumberjacks returned the favor in Flagstaff, 3-1. The Bengals hold the overall series edge, 34-27. The Lumberjacks won both of the season meetings in 2012 over Weber State and lead the Wildcats 35-28 in the all-time series. NAU swept Weber State in Ogden, Utah last year and then rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win in five sets at home.
TV Coverage: Thursday's match against Idaho State will be televised by NAU-TV and shown live on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox College Sports and Fox College Sports Pacific. The match will be shown live locally in Flagstaff on Suddenlink cable Channel 4 and online on the NAU-TV live web stream.
Saturday Promotion: Saturday's match will be the second half of an NAU doubleheader with the NAU football home opener. All fans who present a ticket from the football game will receive free admission to Saturday's match against Weber State.
Coach Ken Murphy Quote for the Week: "I think we're comfortable in our system and our understanding of how we play together has really improved a lot. We're at a stage where we're ready for conference and we have a solid list of things that we want to improve on. We obviously didn't play as well as we would've liked last week but we learned a lot from it."
About Idaho State (6-5): Like NAU, Idaho State also enters conference play on a two-match losing streak having gone 1-2 at the Wolverine Classic in Orem, Utah last weekend. After defeating host Utah Valley in five sets in their first match, the Bengals lost in four sets to both Utah and UC Irvine. The Bengals, last season's Big Sky runner-up and preseason No. 2 pick in the Big Sky Coaches Poll, are one of two teams (with NAU being the other) to begin conference play with a winning record.
The Bengals, third in the Big Sky in kills and fourth in hitting percentage are led by their senior setter Lori Mendenhall-Lee, the Big Sky MVP in 2012. This year, Mendenhall-Lee is second in the conference in assists at 10.51 per set, only trailing NAU's Jensen Barton. Idaho State also boasts the conference's leader in kills in sophomore Tressa Lyman (3.97 per set) and hitting percentage in sophomore Makenzie Filer (.448). Junior Kylee Sessions is second in the conference in service aces at 0.39 per set.
About Weber State (4-9): Weber State is 4-9 heading into its final non-conference match at home against Utah Valley on Tuesday. The Wildcats completed the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Tournament hosted by Penn with a 1-3 record last weekend. Weber State swept LaSalle in its tournament opener but then fell to Temple, American University and Penn in its following matches. The Wildcats are just 1-8 since claiming a share of their season-opening Wildcat Weekend tournament with a 3-1 mark.
Despite their 4-9 record, the Wildcats have done a great job of limiting their opponents' attack with a Big Sky best .173 opponent hitting percentage which is in large part to the conference's second-best blocking at 2.55 blocks per set. Freshman Katie Harvey is the team's leading blocker at 1.11 per set, sixth in the Big Sky, and junior libero McKay Tarbox is third in the conference in digs (4.55 per set). Sophomore Rebecca Fuchs leads the team with 2.68 kills per set.
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