The Northern Arizona volleyball team battled through a slow start to force a fifth set Thursday night in the Viking Pavilion, but Portland State defended its home court in a 25-18, 25-27, 27-25, 16-25, 15-9 victory. Despite a career-high-tying 17 kills by senior Abby Akin and a career-high 35 digs from senior Sydney Lema, the Lumberjacks suffered their first conference loss of the season and fell to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in Big Sky play.
Portland State started fast and ended even stronger to send Northern Arizona to its fourth fifth-set defeat of the fall. The Vikings broke open the first set with an 8-0 run to take a commanding 13-3 lead and closed the match with a 5-0 burst to turn a one-point lead into a match victory.
Led by Lema’s 35 digs -- tied for the fifth-highest single-match total in program history -- the Lumberjacks posted 120 digs, the most in the rally scoring era and the sixth-highest total ever. Freshman libero Jasmine West recorded 26 digs and freshman outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen posted a season-high 25, giving the Lumberjacks three players with 20 or more digs for the first time in almost two years.
Northern Arizona, dealing with an injury bug that has left the team having to use freshmen to fill the holes, hit .166 and Akin was the only player to hit above .200. Akin attacked at a .556 clip, and Jacobsen and Lema both tallied double-doubles with 10 kills each.
Portland State, who outblocked the visitors narrowly 12-11, recorded five rejections in its first seven points. The Vikings defense forced seven attack errors to build their 13-3 lead and the Lumberjacks never got closer than five points.
Both teams had multiple runs in the second set with Portland State striking with a 6-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. The Vikings then scored four straight to snap a 14-14 tie before the Lumberjacks flipped the scoreboard in their favor with a 7-0 run to take a 21-18 lead. Northern Arizona led 24-21, but Portland State held off the first three of four set points. The Lumberjacks refused to drop the second set, as Akin and redshirt freshman Morgan Gappmayer turned back a Viking attack on NAU’s fifth set point.
Following kills by sophomore Ryann Davis and Jacobsen, Northern Arizona led 22-19 in the third game before Portland State ripped off five straight points to reach set point. Gappmayer and Akin staved off two clinching points with kills, and Gappmayer held off another at 25-25 only for the Vikings to close out.
Northern Arizona put together its most complete set in the fourth with its back against the wall. The Jacks totaled four blocks and held the Vikings to .000 hitting, while Akin recorded five kills and Davis, Jacobsen and Gappmayer each tallied three to force a fifth set.
With the score tied at 8-8 in the deciding stanza, Northern Arizona committed three attack errors and Portland State recorded a pair of aces to pull away late.
Northern Arizona wraps up the weekend road trip at Sacramento State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
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SWIM AND DIVE
With their first dual meet of the season just two weeks away, Northern Arizona's swimming and diving teams continue with preseason play with the Blue & Gold intrasquad meet Friday at 2 p.m. at the Aquatic and Tennis Complex, free for all fans to attend.
The Gold team will have one diver in Jenny Cheetham, who last season, finished in the finals for the NCAA Zone E Championships in 17th place. The Gold team will also consist of this year's Pentathlon winners, Niamh McDonagh and Haley Mayhew. Miranda Nichols, a record-holder for the 100-meter freestyle during the Pentathlon, will represent Gold.
Freshmen Lainie Bell and Emily Luberto join the seasoned Blue team consisting of five sophomores, four juniors and two seniors. Maddie Seidl, who came in third overall during the Pentathlon, will be one of the participating juniors. During the Pentathlon, she fell one spot behind Mayhew and McDonagh during the 200m individual medley but beat them while placing third in the 100m butterfly.
Of the five returning senior swimmers, only three will be participating in the meet in Fernanda Montiel, Alice Hick and Erin Spielman. Montiel will be swimming for the Gold team while Hick and Spielman are for the Blue.
For the 17th consecutive year, the women's soccer team has received the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, posting a 3.35 cumulative team GPA to win the year's honors.
The NSCAA award recognizes high school and collegiate soccer programs that have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and on the field. More than 800 soccer teams were honored this year with the NSCAA College Team Academic Award for recording a team GPA of 3.0 or higher, and of those, more than 200 schools were recognized for both their men's and women's programs.
Northern Arizona has collected this honor dating back to 2003. In the Big Sky, Northern Arizona came in fourth out of the six teams being honored. Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Northern Colorado and Weber State also received the recognition.
The Lumberjacks will continue their season with a pair of away matches at Sacramento State Friday at 4 p.m. and at Portland State on Sunday at 1 p.m.