The Northern Arizona volleyball team found themselves behind yet again in Rolle Activity Center on Saturday after dropping the first set to CSU Bakersfield. Trying to avoid their first three-match losing streak in nearly four years, the Lumberjacks had an injection of energy and went on to cap off their stay in the Lumberjack Classic with an 18-25, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21 victory over the Roadrunners.
“We knew they weren’t controlling the match, and we weren’t really preventing Bakersfield from doing anything,” said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. “We went into the match saying it was going to come down to intensity and defense, and we just didn’t have that in the first set. I was really proud of their ability to regroup and focus on the things we could do on our side and improve throughout the match.”
The Lumberjacks received strong offensive performances from Kaylie Jorgenson and Heaven Harris, both of whom were named to the Lumberjack Classic All-Tournament Team following career-best efforts. Jorgenson led all players with 19 kills to go with 12 digs.
Harris seemed as if she couldn't miss, tallying 16 kills on a season-best .600 hitting percent.
Despite a hot hand from Harris, who posted six kills on seven swings in the first set, the match got off to a rocky start for NAU. The Roadrunners scored the first five points and hit .351 in the opening set on their way to a dominating win. Trailing by as much as six points, the Lumberjacks still managed to be within striking range at 20-17 after a Roadrunners attack error, but the team scored the next four points to take back momentum.
The Lumberjacks earned a hard-fought second set victory, slipping into the lead, 16-13, with a 5-0 run started by a Jorgenson kill and aided by three CSUB errors. Although they managed to lead the rest of the way, the Lumberjacks were never able to shake the Roadrunners, but behind seven of Jorgenson’s 19 kills NAU went into the intermission knotted up at one set apiece.
“After the first set today, we knew exactly what we needed to do and we just went out and executed,” Jorgenson said. “We know our skill is there and we’re just missing little pieces. Against ASU last night, we came up short but we really learned from it. We lacked some energy again in the first set today, but we made it fun again and everything came together.”
Having just met last weekend in South Dakota, both teams’ familiarity with each other was evident as the third set was tied at every step until Northern Arizona surged ahead with five consecutive points to break a 6-6 tie. CSU Bakersfield regained its footing and closed the gap to 13-11 until the Lumberjacks finally were able to break loose. Harris contributed three kills during an 8-1 run, putting the set well out of reach with redshirt sophomore Victoria Ewalefo and Jorgenson teaming up for an emphatic block on set point.
The four-set victory prevented NAU’s first three-match losing streak since ending the 2013 season with three consecutive losses and first three-match home losing streak since 2011.
“This was the most complete effort we had in terms of controlling our opponent and understanding what we’re capable of on our side,” Murphy said. “Regardless of who we’re playing, we always have to be able to do that. We look back to the first two matches (yesterday) and we know those teams were good but we didn’t do those things well. Today, we started that way but we learned as went through and this is a team who is going to learn a lot the next couple of months.”
NAU won despite hitting only .186 in the match, but a ferocious effort at the net spearheaded by Ewalefo and Brittni Dorsey -- both of whom had four blocks--– forced CSU Bakersfield into 32 attack errors. The Roadrunners wound up hitting .135 compared to .204 when the two teams faced each other last week. Dorsey did not play in the loss against ASU match the night before.
Abby Stomp recorded 40 assists, while Jordan Anderson posted a team-high 15 digs and led the team with two service aces.
NAU heads west to the islands next week for a pair of matches against Hawaii on Friday and Saturday in its final two matches before the conference season.