Photo Courtesy of Rick Johnson
HOUSTON, Texas – With a quick turnaround following their season-opening win Friday night, the Northern Arizona volleyball team swept Chattanooga Saturday morning to begin the second day of the Marriott Houston Westchase Invitational. With the 25-17, 25-18, 25-17 victory, NAU ensured that its final match of the tournament against Tulsa would determine the tourney champion. Tulsa swept Houston Baptist in the day's first match.
Both the Lumberjacks and the Mocs were locked in a tight contest from the beginning as they were tied 12-12, the sixth tie of the set, midway through the first. The NAU block shifted control of not only the set, but the entire rest of the match, from that point though as the Lumberjacks teamed for three blocks during a 6-1 run that gave them an 18-13 lead. With five blocks in all during the opening set, NAU ran away and struck first with the eight-point win, setting the tone for the final two sets in the process.
Chattanooga briefly seized control to start the second set, jumping out to a 6-3 edge, before the Lumberjacks knotted it up at 7-7. Consecutive kills by sophomore Lauren Jacobsen were the first two in a string of four by NAU that put them in front 11-7 and the 'Jacks never looked back from there. While the block was key in the first set, the Lumberjack offense was on full display in the second with the team hitting .517 on their way to a 2-0 lead in the match. Jacobsen paced the Lumberjacks by recording six of her eight total kills in the set.
NAU did not trail at all in the final set, gradually separating early. Three Lumberjack aces – two from sophomore Jensen Barton and one from junior Janae Vander Ploeg – were part of NAU's initial 11-5 run to begin the third set and the Lumberjacks led by as many as 11 at 21-10. A late Chattanooga rally cut NAU's lead to six, but senior Sydney Kemper clinched the team's first sweep of 2014 with back-to-back kills while handing the Mocs their second loss of the tournament.
Kemper was the only Lumberjack with double-figure kills with 10, but NAU's balanced offense was the story of the match. All five of NAU's starting attackers tallied at least six kills while the Lumberjack middle blocker duo of senior Taylor Stephens and Payton Bock were dominant, combining for 13 kills on 17 attacks without an error. Stephens added a match-best six blocks to go with six kills in addition to two aces at the service line. She was one of three Lumberjacks to record two aces with NAU tallying eight service aces for the second straight match.
The Lumberjacks hit .314 for the match and held the Mocs to a .125 clip – the second time in two matches that NAU has held its opponent to a hitting percentage south of .200. Jacobsen posted a career-high 13 digs with redshirt junior Stacia Williams recording 12 digs helping NAU to a 49-42 advantage in digs. NAU also held the advantages in blocks (9.0-4.0) and aces (8-4) over Chattanooga.
NAU looks to complete its perfect weekend at the Houston Baptist tournament this afternoon versus Tulsa. Both teams are a perfect 2-0 entering the match. First serve is set for 3 p.m. Flagstaff time.