FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team made quick work of Southern Utah sweeping the Thunderbirds 25-13, 25-12, 25-18 for its third Big Sky win of the season Monday night at the Rolle Activity Center. The 43 points allowed was the lowest total this season by an NAU opponent as the Lumberjacks never trailed in a successful bounce back after their loss at Sacramento State last Friday.
"We got back to doing the things we wanted to do on the court," said head coach Ken Murphy. "Offensively we were really strong and Erin (Truett) did a really good job of distributing the ball and keeping our hitters involved. I really liked the fact that we got some big leads and we kept playing hard and didn't let the momentum change."
The Lumberjacks rushed out to sizeable leads in all three sets and set the tone of the match from the onset. With freshman Addy Lofstedt at the service line to begin the match, the Lumberjacks took the first nine points with Lofstedt recording three aces during the match-opening run. The 9-0 advantage would balloon up to 14-1 as the NAU lead never shrunk below 12 at any point throughout the remainder of the opening set. The Lumberjacks hit .394 and limited the Thunderbirds to a .105 clip as NAU was stellar defensively led by nine first-set digs by senior Lexie Schroeder.
Five Southern Utah attack errors contributed to a 6-0 NAU spurt to begin the second set as the Lumberjacks steadily built on their first set momentum. Yet despite the early deficit, the Thunderbirds hung with the Lumberjacks, trailing just 16-10 midway through the set. A kill by sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg ignited a 5-0 run that would push the Lumberjacks' lead to double-digits and NAU rolled from there winning nine of the final 11 points in the set. NAU was even better in the second set hitting .429 while Southern Utah struggled with 11 errors leading to a -.074 percentage.
The final set was the closest of the night as the Lumberjacks jumped out to 10-4 lead only to see Southern Utah close the gap to 17-14 after two consecutive NAU errors. But a Thunderbird service error turned the tide as it was the first of seven straight Lumberjack points with five coming off kills to pull within match point. Southern Utah was able to hold off four match points before sophomore Payton Bock and junior Erin Truett stuffed SUU's Kylie Schofield for the final point of the match.
The Lumberjacks were dominant in all facets of the match. NAU outhit Southern Utah .311 to .074 and recorded more kills, digs and service aces. Vander Ploeg posted a match-high 13 kills and hit .344 in addition to seven digs. Junior Sydney Kemper added eight kills, hitting .571, as did Bock who also recorded a match-high four blocks. Truett handed out 35 assists while Schroeder tallied a career-high tying 16 digs in her second match of the season.
"Tonight was a stepping stone for this week and a way for us to improve and get better," Schroeder said. "We made a lot of mistakes (last Friday) and we let it go and came out tonight and played like we know how to."
The Lumberjacks (9-4 overall, 3-1 Big Sky) will continue their three-match homestand – the longest of the conference season – on Thursday with Portland State at 7 p.m. at the Rolle Activity Center. The Vikings are one of two remaining teams unbeaten in the Big Sky play with a perfect 4-0 conference record.