Early in the season, Kaylie Jorgenson said she was putting the heat on herself to perform better in her final year playing for the Northern Arizona volleyball team.
The self-motivation has led to a stellar season for the Lumberjacks outside hitter, who has developed into an all-around player.
Jorgenson leads the team in kills with 327 and is tied for the top spot in service aces with Abby Akin at 38 apiece. She’s also second on the team in digs with 447 and fourth in blocks on 63.
“I think she brings a really good example of how to work for what you want," said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. "I think early in her career, she had a lot of skill developing to do, and as time went on she had more of a leader role to fill. Every month, we’ve asked her to do more, and she’s been here for five years and I feel that during that entire timeline she’s responded every time and pushed herself to get better and pushed to fill that bigger role.”
Jorgenson is the only player in the Big Sky Conference currently in the top 10 of both kills per set and and digs per set.
Riding a seven-match win streak that helped them pull away in the Big Sky standings and keep pace with leader Idaho, the Lumberjacks will need the fifth-year player’s experience down the stretch of the final three regular-season matches as the team looks to take the top seed for the postseason.
For Northern Arizona, the three remaining matches of the regular season consist of a mix of competition the conference has to offer.
Having suffered a five-set loss in the first meeting, Northern Arizona (20-8, 12-3 Big Sky) hosts Northern Colorado (12-11, 8-6 Big Sky) on Saturday. The Lumberjacks stay home to face the Idaho Vandals, who sit at 12-2 in conference with an 18-8 overall record and are on an 11-match win streak heading into the weekend. Eastern Washington, which doesn't have a conference win so far this year, is set to host Northern Arizona for the teams’ finale on Saturday, Nov. 17.
As the season, and her career, nears an end, Jorgenson has found another form of motivation. The fire inside still burns, but now more than ever she wants to play for others.
“It’s all for my teammates and the coaches who have been here for five years for me and everyone in Flagstaff. So now it’s about putting together that self-motivation and and external motivation,” she said.
Jorgenson said she and her teammates took their share of bumps and bruises during the season before the team hit its stride, including the loss to Northern Colorado in which Northern Arizona was only able to record one kill in the deciding set.
“I think it took all of us individuals going through a slump of our own before we could all mature as a team, and everyone who went through that learned from it and came out better, so now it's cohesive," Jorgenson said.
The Northern Colorado match on Oct. 13 was Northern Arizona’s last loss. Jorgenson was responsible for the only kill in the 15-6 defeat and left the game with a season-high 67 attempts.
Still, the 67 attempts in the match against the Bears was nothing compared to the workload the senior had a year ago. Jorgenson played seven matches last season in which she took 60 or more swings, including a four-set match in which she tallied 82 attempts and a five-setter that ended with her at 85. So far this year, the Northern Colorado match is the only one in which she went over 60 attempts.
"I can actually put all my physical effort into a match knowing I am not going to be exhausted for the next few days," she said. "I just think it lets me be better all-around, especially mentally, because when you get that many balls in a game and it’s not going very well, you get pretty beat up. Being able to maintain confidence through myself and others is a relief, very reassuring.”
Last season, only Jorgenson and opposite hitter Heaven Harris finished the season with 200 or more kills. This year, the two have been joined by Akin and Ryann Davis in reaching the mark. Furthermore, Jorgenson, Akin and Harris were the only players to appear in 100 or more sets last season, while eight players on the team have done so already.
“It shows how unselfish our team is," Murphy said. "We distribute the ball well and keep things balanced. They fill their role and are happy with the contributions they each make and they are excited about the teammate next to them having a good day.”
Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Rolle Activity Center.