The Northern Arizona and Weber State volleyball teams both entered the Big Sky Conference championship tournament on hot streaks.
One cooled down while the other remained peaking, and Northern Arizona's conference title repeat bid came to an end Friday night in Sacramento State on a 3-0 sweep to Weber, 25-21, 25-15, 25-21.
While the No. 3-ranked Lumberjacks, who struggled to find a flow from the start of Friday's match, were coming off a 5-set victory on a reverse sweep against Idaho on Thursday, the third-seeded Wildcats were cruising from a 3-0 sweep in the opening round over seventh-seeded Southern Utah. And while Northern Arizona appeared tired mentally and physically on Saturday, finishing with a team hitting efficiency of .200, Weber hit .287 and moved well for digs and blocks on defense.
Rylin Roberts finished with a match-high 14 kills on a .306 hitting clip for the Wildcats, who won their fifth straight and now have claimed 12 of their last 13 outings. Megan Gneiting and Dani Nay each finished with 10 kills for Weber.
The Wildcats (24-7) kept the defending champ from finding success on serve-receiving and effectively kept the ball out of sight from Lumberjacks setters Abby Stomp and Aubrea Bandfield, who combined for 36 assists to Weber's 46 total. Weber State ended with a 62% side-out percentage, with Northern Arizona (21-11) at 50% in the category.
"They played a solid match and we needed to be more consistent at times," Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy said.
While Weber finished with three in double-digits in kills, outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen was the lone Lumberjack to reach the mark at 10 to go with nine digs.
Lumberjacks opposite hitter Heaven Harris had her worst hitting night against a Big Sky opponent in the 2019 season, finishing with eight kills on .160 hitting. Meanwhile, it was the second-worst hitting performance for Lumberjacks middle blocker Abby Akin this season, as she tallied just four kills on 16 attempts for a .125 hitting efficiency.
Northern Arizona, which was riding a season-best seven-match win streak into Friday, appeared slow out of the gates, allowing a rare point on a miscue as a free ball fell untouched in the opening set. Not long afterward, however, the Lumberjacks went on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 14-10. Weber State answered immediately with an 8-1 run.
Another Lumberjacks miscue came in the third, as the ball fell between a group of players.
There were six ties and six lead changes in the first set.
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With Northern Arizona's struggles to pass and be consistent behind the service line continuing into the second set, Weber State never trailed on the way to taking a 2-0 match lead and held the Lumberjacks to .098 hitting in the stanza.
Weber's largest lead of the night came in the second half at 21-10 on a Nay kill, and the Wildcats used an 11-2 outburst for an 18-7 lead and control of the game.
Sydney Lema, one of three seniors including Akin and Stomp for the Lumberjacks playing in their final match, added six kills and 14 digs, and she ended the longest rally of the night by terminating the ball.
Murphy said he thought his team still played with strong effort and wasn't lagging from the day before.
"I thought we played with really good energy, actually. I think they kept their composure just a little bit longer during rallies," said Murphy, who noted that Weber carried the older and more experienced roster into the match.
Jacobsen, one of the handful of freshmen on the young Lumberjacks squad, was blocked late in the third set and Weber reached 20 points first for the third straight set on the rejection and held off Northern Arizona the rest of the way, hitting .368 in the stanza.
Northern Arizona was picked to No. 1 in the preseason poll, with Weber coming in at No. 2.
The Lumberjack finished the night with three aces and five service errors. Weber served up seven aces to go with just three service errors.
The score from the other semifinal match was not available by press time.
Weber State plays for the title against either No. 1-seeded Northern Colorado or No. 4-seeded Montana State on Saturday.