The Northern Arizona volleyball team starts off a stretch of five consecutive home matches in their final six overall to conclude the regular season this week with rematches against Sacramento State and Portland State in the Rolle Activity Center.
The Hornets, at 10-0 in conference, and the Vikings, at 8-2, are two of the top three teams in the Big Sky. NAU will aim to knock off the Big Sky's last remaining undefeated team on Thursday at 7 p.m. before hosting Portland State at noon on Homecoming Saturday.
"The key to being successful at a really high level is finding the right balance to play where you're best when you're playing the best," said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. "Our team has improved so much in this area as we've gone through this season. This weekend is two more chances to balance our expectations of being successful in front of our home crowd with the idea of playing our best volleyball."
NAU is back to even in conference play at 5-5, 9-12 overall, following two road victories over Montana State and Montana. The Lumberjacks handed Portland State one of its two conference losses on Oct. 12, while they fell to Sacramento State in four sets on Oct. 14. Redshirt junior Kaylie Jorgenson is the reigning Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week after torching the Bobcats and Grizzlies last week with 35 total kills at 5.0 per set. Jorgenson now leads the league with 155 kills in conference play and is second with 4.19 per set.
Thursday's match will be televised locally in Flagstaff on NAU-TV Channel 4 and 104. That match, along with Saturday's, will be also be streamed online at pluto.tv or the Pluto TV app on Channel 239.
Sacramento State became the first team to clinch a spot in the Big Sky Championships as it extended its win streak to 10 matches by sweeping Idaho and edging past Eastern Washington in five sets on the road. The Hornets remain the lone undefeated team in conference play at 10-0 and are 19-7 overall. The Hornets are ranked No. 23 in this week's VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll. Sacramento State leads the nation in total assists (1,329), total digs (1,785), total attacks (4,061) and rank second in total kills (1,412).
Portland State swept both Eastern Washington and Idaho last weekend on the road - its second and third consecutive sweeps since falling to the Lumberjacks two weeks ago. The Vikings are 17-5 overall and 8-2 in conference and currently are holding down the third spot in the Big Sky standings. Overall this season, the Vikings continue to lead the conference in kills with 14.22 per set as a team and are hitting .252, which ranks second in the Big Sky. Portland State is running a highly efficient attack in conference play with a .275 clip, while limiting its opponents to .186 hitting. The Vikings are averaging a Big Sky-best 15.45 kills per set in league matches.
Northern Arizona finished with its second-best tournament score of the season as it concluded UNLV's Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown Tuesday morning at the Highlands Ranch Golf Club.
The Lumberjacks fell three spots to No. 15 in the overall standings after shooting an 19-over 307 for the final round. For the tournament, NAU finished at 34-over, totaling 898 total strokes.
Sierra Bezdicek and Sofia Anokhina led the way for the Lumberjacks with 6-over performances for the tournament. Both finished in a tie for 38th individually with 222 total strokes.
Kaitlyn Saum was right behind them with an 11-over 227 showing. She finished in a tie for 63rd. Loren Skibba shot a 13-over 229 while Emma Reyes finished with a 22-over 238 (88). It was Skibba's best tournament score of the fall.
Lexi Keene and Carly Akine also competed, but did so as individuals. Skibba played her best round of the season to finish with a 10-over 226 (T-59). Akine wrapped up with a 18-over 234 (T-82).
Host UNLV took home the tournament title, running away with it with a 17-under performance.