Big Sky Quarterfinal Information:
Opponent: Portland State (Thursday, Nov. 17/1:00 p.m.)
Location: Grand Forks, N.D.
Live Stats: www.bigskyconf.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Northern Arizona volleyball team's ultimate conference title defense will start Thursday versus Portland State in the opening round of the Big Sky Championships hosted by North Dakota. NAU, the No. 3 seed, and Portland State, the No. 6 seed, will meet in the Betty Englestad Center at 1 p.m. Arizona time.
Should the Lumberjacks win, they will meet the winner of the No. 2 Sacramento State and No. 7 Eastern Washington quarterfinal on Friday in the first of two semifinals. The semifinal would be played at 3:30 p.m. Arizona time with Saturday's championship set for a 6 p.m. start time. All of this weekend's tournament matches can be streamed online for free at watchbigsky.com.
Ken Murphy's Sound Bite: "We've looked really good this week and skill-wise we're at an all-time high with this team. We're performing in all six rotations really well and we have a lot of options offensively. The challenge for us is the mental grind of three matches potentially and respecting each one along the way. We have to play each match the way we want to play it and if we focus on ourselves, we are optimistic about how this week can go for us."
Previewing The 'Jacks: NAU will be the third-seed in this week's conference tournament following a split in its final weekend of the regular season. The Lumberjacks suffered a 3-0 loss to regular season champion North Dakota last Thursday - their first home loss in over two years - but rebounded to sweep Southern Utah on Saturday to clinch the No. 3 seed. Senior Lauren Jacobsen will pace the Lumberjacks as she has done all season, ranking second in the conference with 4.05 kills per set. She averaged 3.71 kills per set - fourth-best - during conference play. She also leads the Big Sky with 20 double-doubles and is tied for the team-lead with 382 total digs. Redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey amped her play defensive play during the conference season as she finished second with 1.40 blocks per set. For the season, she is averaging a team-high 1.18 blocks per set - third in the conference - and has posted a Big Sky best 60 service aces. NAU got a boost last week with the return of sophomore Jordan Anderson, who missed the previous two matches due to an injury. Anderson leads NAU with 3.94 digs per set, including 4.38 per set in conference play. The 'Jacks rank first overall in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage and aces per set this season. In conference matches only, the Lumberjacks hit .234 and their opponents hit .158 - both second-best - and they averaged a high of 1.69 aces per set.
The Portland State Scout: Portland State closed the regular season in dominant form, sweeping both Weber State and Idaho State at home to wrap up the Big Sky Tournament's sixth seed. Pati Anae has been the conference's kills leader all season long and finished the regular season with an average of 4.29 kills per set. In Big Sky matches, she averaged 3.98 kills along with 4.53 points per set. Erin Clark ranks fourth in the Big Sky with 10.43 assists per set and set the Vikings to the second-most kills in the conference. Tasha Bojanic received her second Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week award this week and ranked fourth in conference play with 5.37 digs per set. She has totaled a team-best 29 service aces. The Vikings, as a team, rank second in kills at 13.75 per set and are hitting .204. Opponents have hit a .210 clip and Portland State also ranks second with 1.42 aces per set behind NAU.
- NAU and Portland State will be meeting for the 43rd time in school history. NAU leads the all-time series 23-19. NAU won both meetings this season, 3-1, on Oct. 13 in Flagstaff and 3-2, on Oct. 29 in Portland.
NAU Quick Sets:
- During NAU's run through the conference tournament last season, it did not drop a set in winning its second Big Sky Tournament championship in program history.
- Senior Jensen Barton moved up to second in school history in career assists and became the third Lumberjack all-time to record 4,000 assists on her Senior Day this past Saturday.
- The Lumberjacks are 12-16 all-time in the Big Sky Tournament. Thursday's match will be the first time that NAU and Portland State will meet in the conference tournament.
- NAU ranks second in the country in total aces (206) and sixth in aces per set (1.91). The 'Jacks also rank 14th in opponent hitting percentage (.155), 22nd in digs per set (17.06) and 33rd in hitting percentage (.260).
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