CEDAR CITY, Utah – Four Lumberjacks posted double-doubles, but the Northern Arizona volleyball team saw its four-match win streak come to an end Monday night at Southern Utah, 25-18, 24-26, 25-20, 19-25, 15-10, to begin its three-match road trip this week. The Lumberjacks fell into third place in the Big Sky standings heading into their match at Eastern Washington on Thursday.
The Lumberjacks struggled opening the match, hitting just .140 in falling behind early. Southern Utah broke open the first set with a 5-0 run that snapped a 6-6 tie and eventually pushed its lead out to as many as 10 points in taking the set victory. But NAU bounced back in the second set in which both teams were locked up on the scoreboard on 13 different occasions. With NAU trailing 22-20 and on the verge of falling behind 2-0 in the match, sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg hammered down three straight kills to give the Lumberjacks the lead. NAU would eventually even the match score on a kill by junior Sydney Kemper and a Thunderbird attack error.
The third set was another tight battle at the beginning, but the Lumberjacks used a 6-1 run to climb in front 15-12. After the Thunderbirds put together a run of their own to retake the lead, Kemper played a role in two consecutive points – first on a kill and then a block with sophomore Payton Bock – to put the Lumberjacks back on top, 20-19. However, a final 6-0 SUU run to close the set put NAU's backs to the wall entering the fourth set.
The fourth set closely mirrored the third set as neither squad was able to gain a significant advantage until late. After Southern Utah evened the score at 17-all, three consecutive kills by freshman Addy Lofstedt, Vander Ploeg and Bock kickstarted an NAU run that allowed the Lumberjacks to finish the set in a flurry. The Lumberjacks would send the match to a deciding fifth set by winning eight of the final 10 points.
The fifth set was controlled by Southern Utah though as it struck first and never trailed. The Lumberjacks got within 10-7 after Kemper converted on a kill and then paired with Bock for another block, but the Thunderbirds answered back with two straight points to steal any momentum back before finishing with a win.
The night was a defensive battle throughout as the teams combined for 200 digs and 28 total team blocks and it showed in both teams' hitting percentages. Southern Utah held the slight advantage, .204-.178, as it was a closely contested match with 38 ties and 17 lead changes throughout.
Kemper posted a team-high 17 kills and had 10 digs. She was joined in the double-double company by Vander Ploeg (15 kills, career-high 17 digs), junior Erin Truett (47 assists, career-high 16 digs) and Bock (11 kills, 10 blocks). Vander Ploeg picked up her fourth double-double of the season, while Kemper recorded her third. It was the Bock's first of the season and second of her career and Truett notched her first of her career. Sophomore Trianna Henry finished with a career-high 34 digs that led all players.
NAU (16-7, 10-4 Big Sky) continues its road trip and looks to get back in the win column Thursday in Cheney, Wash. versus Eastern Washington. The Lumberjacks swept the Eagles at home on Oct. 5.