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September 21, 2013

Volleyball Moves to 2-0 in Big Sky After Sweep of Weber State

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team completed a perfect 2-0 start to the conference season as it rolled to a sweep of Weber State Saturday night, 25-11, 25-15, 25-20. The Lumberjacks are just one of two teams to wrap up the first weekend of Big Sky play with a 2-0 record as they saw their record improve to 8-3 this season.

"I really liked the way we worked and didn't worry about what was going on across the net," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We had some specific goals for the match and we pursued them really well. We took a game plan and executed it right away. The first two games, we may not have been flawless but we did the things we wanted to do."

The Lumberjacks did not trail at all in either of the first two sets as they put their feet to the pedal and raced out to early leads without looking back. In the opening set, NAU allowed Weber State to string together back-to-back points on only two occasions as it led by as put together four runs of at least three consecutive points. The Lumberjacks built up a lead of 13 points at 19-6 and won the final four points of the set – three coming off Wildcat errors – to cruise to victory.

The second set started out familiarly for NAU as it jumped out to a 12-4 lead. After the Wildcats clawed their way back into the set with a 5-0 run and eventually closed the deficit to two at 15-13. However, a pair of kills by junior Taylor Stephens and two Weber State errors gave the Lumberjacks four of the next five points. The Lumberjacks would wrap up the set with five straight points including the final two on blocks by freshman Izzy Gosar who was inserted into the rotation late in the set.

Unlike the first two sets, the Wildcats led through the early part of the third as they held the lead at 7-5. With the set tied at 12-12, sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg delivered a kill that put NAU on top and it never trailed from there. Freshman Addy Lofstedt's kill sparked a 5-0 NAU run that broke open a one-point game with the Lumberjacks leading 16-15 and the Wildcats never got closer than four points the rest of the way. Back to back kills by Vander Ploeg ended the match and sealed up the Lumberjacks' seventh sweep of the season.

The 2-0 start to the Big Sky schedule was exactly what the Lumberjacks hoped for following a disappointing showing at last week's Lobo Invitational.

"This weekend was huge," Vander Ploeg said. "We told ourselves that last weekend was rough but it was a great learning experience. We're a young team and learning from that made a huge difference this weekend. We were pumped to play Idaho State and Weber State and it showed on the court."

For the second time this season, the Lumberjacks held their opponent to a .000 hitting percentage as Weber State did Saturday night. It was the seventh match that NAU's opponent hitting percentage was below .200. The Lumberjacks forced 30 attack errors and hit .333 themselves which marked their highest hitting percentage since their season opener.

NAU was led by Vander Ploeg and junior Sydney Kemper who both totaled a match-high 10 kills. Both were effective in doing so as Vander Ploeg hit .450 and Kemper hit .444. Lofstedt's career-high five blocks paced NAU's play at the net as it recorded 12.0 team blocks pushing its total for the week to 29.0. Junior Erin Truett notched 28 assists, sophomore Trianna Henry registered a match-high nine digs and sophomore Payton Bock hit a match-high .500 with six kills.

The Lumberjacks look for their third consecutive conference win in their only match next week Friday at Sacramento State. They return home on Monday, Sept. 30 to host Southern Utah.