FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Two days after seeing their school record home win streak come to a halt, the Northern Arizona volleyball team started a new one on Saturday and ensured their seniors would leave the Rolle Activity Center as victors in a 25-22, 25-21, 25-21, sweep over Southern Utah. With the victory, the Lumberjacks earned the No. 3 seed in next week's conference tournament and concluded the regular season with a 12-4 conference record.
"It felt great to allow our seniors to leave the Rolle Activity Center with a smile for the last time," said redshirt sophomore Kaylie Jorgenson, who tied for team-high honors with 11 kills. "Hopefully we can do that next week too to give them a storybook ending. They deserve the world, so we were really happy to send them off the right way today."
Seniors Jensen Barton, Lauren Jacobsen and Addy Lofstedt were honored prior to the match and then went out and played huge roles in the sweep. Barton distributed 36 assists and set the NAU attack to a robust .356 hitting percentage in addition to adding seven kills, seven digs and three blocks. Jacobsen notched 11 kills on .321 hitting plus nine digs, while Lofstedt recorded eight kills and hit .500.
Barton also hit a pair of milestones in her final home match as she joined Melissa Haugen and Ruth Parsons as the only Lumberjacks to ever record 4,000 career assists. In the third set, Barton then passed Parsons for second all-time in school history and finished the match with 4,017 assists.
Despite the match sweep, the Thunderbirds were pesky in the loss. The match featured a total of 26 ties and 11 lead changes despite NAU's massive advantage in hitting. Southern Utah only hit .144 for the afternoon.
"We passed the ball well and Jensen did a really good job distributing," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We didn't have the defensive intensity we like to have, but offensively we were in flow the whole match and knew we could get a kill and side out. We were flat at times in the middle of sets, but our team did a good job of recognizing that and making plays at the end of sets."
Southern Utah used a 4-0 run to take a 9-7 lead in the first set and held that advantage until 17-14. Kills from Barton and Jorgensen followed by an ace from redshirt freshman Hannah Cherry forced an SUU timeout, and then NAU took the lead on a combo block by redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey and Jorgenson. The Thunderbirds regained the lead at 20-19, but a pair of blocks by Barton and Dorsey followed by Barton and freshman Abby Akin snagged the edge for good as NAU grabbed six of the final nine points.
Sophomore Jordan Anderson served NAU on a tide-changing 6-0 run that turned a 16-13 deficit into a 19-16 lead the 'Jacks did not give back. During the surge, Jorgenson contributed three kills as Barton found her hitters to the tune of 18 second-set kills. Jorgenson, Lofstedt, Jacobsen and Dorsey all put away at least three kills to push NAU to a 2-0 match lead.
NAU was in complete control of the third set bursting out to an 11-6 lead only to see Southern Utah reel off five straight points to tie the score at 11-all. The set remained a tight one until the end when Akin sided out the Thunderbirds with a kill at 22-20. An SUU error followed by Jorgenson's final kill put NAU at match point and it clinched the victory two points later.
The 'Jacks held the statistical advantage in every category except aces with the Thunderbirds totaling four to the Lumberjacks' two. Anderson led all players with 13 digs and was the only Lumberjack with double-digit digs. Dorsey had a hand in four of NAU's 6.0 team blocks.
NAU (22-7 overall record) will now travel to Grand Forks, N.D. for the Big Sky Championships. North Dakota won the regular season title outright and will be the tournament host. The third-seeded Lumberjacks will take on sixth-seeded Portland State in the first round next Thursday, Nov. 17 with a time to be announced.
The Lumberjacks defeated the Vikings twice this season, winning in four sets at home and five sets in Portland.