The Northern Arizona volleyball team has just one more week before entering Big Sky Conference play, and the Lumberjacks will spend it across the Pacific Ocean in the 50th state with a pair of matches against Hawaii Friday and Saturday. Both matches are slated for a 10 p.m. local time start.
"Hawaii is such a tough opponent and it's going to be a tough environment, but it's going to be great for our team," said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. "We're going to have fun playing these matches and we'll be pushed to get better. It'll definitely help our team grow their confidence in addition to having a great volleyball experience while we're improving. We're still developing our defensive identity and while we've seen moments of it this year, we're hoping we get into situations where we put a little more pressure on our opponent."
The Lumberjacks take a 4-5 record to Hawaii. Redshirt junior Kaylie Jorgenson and freshman Heaven Harris earned All-Tournament honors for the second consecutive tournament last weekend at the Lumberjack Classic. Jorgenson is averaging a team-best 3.38 kills per set, which ranks seventh in the Big Sky, and has recorded double-digit kills in every match so far this season. Harris is coming off a season-best performance of 16 kills on .600 hitting against CSU Bakersfield, upping her season numbers to 2.59 kills per set and a .379 hitting percentage. Redshirt sophomore Victoria Ewalefo also had a strong Lumberjack Classic, averaging two kills per set to go along with 11 blocks.
NAU last played at Hawaii three years ago when it dropped a pair of matches. The Lumberjacks fell to the Rainbow Wahine, 25-18, 25-15, 25-18, and hit only .137 in the first match. Lauren Jacobsen led the Lumberjacks with 12 kills that evening while Taylor Stephens was part of three of NAU's 6.0 team blocks. The following evening, Hawaii swept NAU again, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18, but the Lumberjacks were a completely different team. NAU hit over 100 points better at .254 and outblocked Hawaii, 6-5. Jacobsen and Sydney Kemper both posted nine kills in the second meeting. None of the current Lumberjacks played in either of those two matches. The only three who were on the team in 2014 are redshirt juniors Brittni Dorsey, Emma Grimsrud and Jorgenson. All three redshirted their true freshman seasons that year.
Hawaii was the preseason favorite in the Big West Conference poll and started the season at No. 20 in the AVCA National Rankings. The Rainbow Wahine also have a 4-5 record, but four of their losses have come to ranked teams. Last weekend, Hawaii picked up victories over Baylor and Nevada during its Outrigger Resorts Volleyball Challenge after falling in five sets to No. 10 BYU. McKenna Granato is the team leader in kills at 4.25 per set while Emily Maglio is second at 2.72 kills per set. Maglio is hitting a team-best .366 and also leads the team with 1.42 blocks per set.