Freshman Heaven Harris continued to kill the ball at a high efficiency, sophomore Abby Akin was once again a wall at the net and the Northern Arizona volleyball team's sweeping ways continued on the road at Idaho State on Thursday.
With a 25-18, 25-19, 25-15 trouncing, NAU won consecutive matches for the first time this season to up its record to 6-8 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky.
Harris hit .611, the best by any player this year, and led the Lumberjacks with 12 kills Thursday night. Five of her kills came in a six-point span to bust open the third set on the way to the Lumberjacks' second straight sweep.
Akin notched a match-high five blocks, one weekend after posting 13 in two matches, to aid NAU's efforts to holding Idaho State to only .091 hitting. The clip was the second-lowest by a Lumberjack opponent this season.
NAU finished the first set with the final four points to complete a wire-to-wire match-opening win. The Lumberjacks led by as much as six at 14-8 following an ace by senior Dani Westfall, before the Bengals went on a 4-0 run. NAU immediately used a 5-1 burst to force an ISU timeout, but the Bengals again closed the gap to 21-18. Consecutive kills by Harris pushed Idaho State to call its second timeout, but the Bengals could not stop the bleeding committing two attack errors to end the set.
A Bengal service error followed by an ace from sophomore Sydney Lema slightly turned NAU loose at what was just an 11-10 Lumberjack edge. NAU's lead grew to 15-11 at an ISU timeout. The third set remained tight at 18-15 until Lema and Akin combined for three kills during a 4-0 NAU run as the Lumberjacks would eventually claim a 2-0 lead in the match.
Redshirt sophomore Victoria Ewalefo tied the third set at 6-6 with a kill, leading right into Harris' outburst. A 5-1 run by Harris herself provided NAU with an 11-7 lead that the Lumberjacks only built on moving forward. Ewalefo got the Lumberjacks to match point, 24-15, and Lema capped the sweep with her second service ace of the set and third overall.
The Lumberjacks hit .269 overall and held the advantage in every statistical category. Redshirt junior Kaylie Jorgenson joined Harris in double-figures with 11 kills, while Lema posted a team-high 11 digs.
NAU wraps up the weekend at Weber State on Saturday at 6 p.m.
After opening Big Sky Conference competition this past weekend against last season's top programs, the Northern Arizona women's soccer team will host their conference home opener against Northern Colorado 7 p.m. Friday and follow up with North Dakota at noon on Sunday.
The Lumberjacks have won a combined 12 out of 19 games against these two schools in the history of the program. Head coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks are looking to improve on their current 1-1 Big Sky record and 6-5 overall mark.
"The conference aspect of points is really important; we have to take points away from opponents and we have to gain points at the same time," Luciano said. "This weekend we are going to try and maximize our home-field advantage and come out with two positive results."
Northern Arizona will continue celebrating 20 years of soccer by bringing former players back in appreciation of their contributions to the Lumberjack legacy. Friday night will be Alumni Appreciation night as former athletes return. More than 220 athletes played in the program under two coaches, Luciano and former coach Tracy Custer.
"The athletes that came through here were great representatives for the university and they brought a lot of diversity to our program from different regions of the country," Luciano said. "I love these girls a lot and they've grown up to be great women, mothers, spouses and professionals."
Northern Colorado is currently 7-4 overall and 1-1 in the Big Sky along with the Lumberjacks. The Bears are coming off a 1-0 win against Weber State and a 2-1 loss to Idaho State.
North Dakota is currently the only undefeated Big Sky team after sweeping Idaho State 2-0 and Weber State 1-0. The Fighting Hawks are 4-3-3 overall going into this weekend and will compete against Sacramento State Friday before taking on the Lumberjacks Sunday.
Following a month-long break from competition, the Northern Arizona men's and women's cross country teams are headed to the 16th annual Great Louisville Classic this Saturday at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.
The meet opens with the men's 8K race at 6:30 a.m. and will be followed by the women's 5K race at 7:15 a.m.
"When we designed the schedule we knew we had a month-long block of training," said director of cross country and track and field Michael Smith. "From George Kyte to now, we're really pleased on both the men's and women's side with their training. The women have been phenomenal and the men are ahead of schedule, so things are looking really good."
The meet is a chance for the Lumberjacks to get a preview of the course where the NCAA Championships will be held later in this season on Nov. 18. It will also be one of the strongest fields that the teams will go against this year, as the meet will include over 3,000 athletes from 142 colleges.
"The first order of business is spending some time at this course that we'll see at the NCAA Championships," Smith said. "It's a course that the women will see again in just two weeks at the Pre-National Meet and then we hope both the men and the women will see it again at the National Meet as well. Priority one is reconnaissance of the course and then it's just getting a chance to compete."
For the men, Andy Trouard, Tyler Day, Geordie Beamish, Peter Lomong, Matt Baxter, Harvey Nelson, Ryan Wolff, Cade Burks and Kyle Havriliak will be racing. In addition, Luis Grijalva will make his debut for the team on Saturday.
Northern Arizona will be competing against 36 other programs, highlighted by No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 12 Furman, No. 19 Middle Tennessee and No. 24 Virginia Tech. The Lumberjacks enter the competition ranked No. 1 in the country and will be competing against eight of the top-30 ranked teams in Division I.
On the women's side, Paige Gilchrist, Mikayla Malaspina, Miranda Myers, Emily Roughan, Kylie Goo and Jessie Williams will be joined by debuting athletes Hannah Behunin, Delaney Rasmussen, Pipi Eitel, Jenna McCaffrey and Jessa Hanson.
The women will be racing against 42 other squads, including No. 13 Boise State, No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 20 Minnesota. NAU enters as the No. 11 team in the Mountain Region and will face five of the top-30 ranked teams in NCAA Division I.