Volleyball Wraps Up First Half of Big Sky Play This Weekend
Opponent: Northern Colorado (Thursday, Oct. 17/7:00 p.m.)
Opponent: North Dakota (Saturday, Oct. 19/7:30 p.m.)
Location: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Live Stats: www.nauathletics.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Back in its comfortable home environment, the Northern Arizona volleyball team concludes the first half of Big Sky play this week with a pair of home matches versus Northern Colorado and North Dakota this Thursday and Saturday. The Lumberjacks saw their three-match win streak come to an end at Montana State last Friday in five sets, but rebounded with one of their best matches of the season the following night defeating Montana in four sets.
The Lumberjacks enter the week in a three-way tie for second place in the conference with a 6-2 Big Sky record. Portland State and Idaho State - both teams which NAU has beaten this season - join the Lumberjacks at 6-2 as the three squads are currently chasing North Dakota, who has a perfect 8-0 conference record.
Series History: NAU split the season series with Northern Colorado last season with each team claiming a victory on the road. The Lumberjacks' 3-1 win in Greeley in the team's first matchup snapped a six-match win streak by the Bears in the series before Northern Colorado swept NAU in three sets in the teams' regular season finale in Flagstaff. UNC leads the all-time series 12-7 and has won the last five meetings at the Rolle Activity Center.
The Lumberjacks played their first two ever matches with North Dakota last season, UND's first in the Big Sky. NAU won both matchups, first posting a clean sweep over UND in Grand Forks and then pulling out a thrilling victory that went the full five sets at home.
TV Coverage: Thursday's match against Northern Colorado will be televised by NAU-TV and shown live on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox College Sports Pacific and Fox Sports San Diego. The match will be shown live locally in Flagstaff on Suddenlink cable Channel 4 and online on the NAU-TV live web stream.
Ticket Promotions: Thursday's match will be the NAU volleyball team's Think Pink game in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The first 200 fans will receive free pink rally towels courtesy of NAU Athletics. It will also be Club Volleyball Night where all youth club volleyball players who come to the match in their club t-shirt or uniform will receive free admission with a paying adult.
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 North Dakota.
Coach Ken Murphy Quote for the Week: "We're excited to play at home again. We like the energy of our crowd and the energy of our gym. The teams coming in are really good and it's going to be great matches. We want to see how we're stacking up at this point of the year. There is a lot of season ahead of us to improve still but we know where these teams stack up and we know where we want to be."
About Northern Colorado (6-12, 2-6 BSC): Northern Colorado snapped its six-match losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Eastern Washington last Saturday, picking up its second Big Sky win of the season in the process. Although UNC, the defending Big Sky champion, is just 2-6 within the conference so far this season, the Bears have suffered three of those losses in five sets.
UNC is second in the conference in digs and is led by senior Merideth Johnson, whose 4.94 digs per set is the second-best average in the Big Sky. Sophomore Kendra Cunningham leads four players averaging at least 2.00 kills per set with a team-high average of 2.91. The Bears' middle blocking duo of juniors Briana Strong and Andrea Spaustat rank second and third on the team in kills and both rank in the top-10 in the conference in hitting percentage. Strong is seventh in the Big Sky with 1.15 blocks per set.
About North Dakota (13-7, 8-0 BSC): North Dakota heads into the final week of first half play in the Big Sky with an unblemished 8-0 conference record and sitting alone at the top of the standings. UND extended its current win streak to nine matches last week with three victories, including two close calls against Northern Colorado and Portland State. Both of those matches went five sets and North Dakota was able to prevail.
North Dakota leads the conference in hitting percentage, kills and assists and it's no secret why it is undefeated in conference play. Senior Lisa Parlich is a big reason why UND hits .262 as a team as Parlich leads the Big Sky with a .403 percentage. Senior Ronni Munkeby, a two-time Big Sky Player of the Week, is fourth at .327 and the pair is also in the top-10 in kills, blocks and points. Junior Nikki Husfeldt leads the Big Sky with 10.86 assists per set.
Finally All Accounted For: For the first time all season, the Lumberjacks were at full health last weekend. NAU suited up all 11 players on the roster for a match at Montana State last Friday and hope to continue to be healthy as it approaches the stretch run of the Big Sky season. NAU saw the return of sophomore Trianna Henry, who had missed the previous four matches, and she started both matches at libero notching two 20-plus dig matches including a career-high tying 23 against Montana.
Strong Bounceback: After the team's tough five-set loss to Montana State last Friday, the Lumberjacks responded with a critical victory at Montana the following night, winning in four sets after dropping the first. It was a career night for several Lumberjacks as junior Sydney Kemper recorded a career-high in kills (19), junior Erin Truett in assists (57) and senior Lexie Schroeder in digs (18). Freshman Addy Lofstedt also equaled her highest hitting percentage of her career (.435) in addition to Henry's career-high tying dig total.
As a team, NAU set single-match season-highs in kills (61) and assists (58) and was one shy of their high dig total with 67, all of which were set in their five-set win against Idaho State on Sept. 19.
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