After four straight matches on the road, the Northern Arizona volleyball team begins a stretch of four in the Rolle Activity Center, and an overall stretch of six of eight at home, this week versus Idaho State and Weber State. Northern Arizona's match versus Idaho State on Thursday will kick off Homecoming Week on campus. The Lumberjacks will then host the defending Big Sky champions, Weber State, on Saturday.
"We're not perfect yet, but we're getting there," said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. "We're not exactly where I think we'll be in three or four weeks. But we've learned how to manage matches and stay at a good emotional level. Over the last couple of weeks, we've competed at a more mature level. Being on the road, there are a lot of distractions and a lot of challenges, and I'm really proud of the way we approached those matches and worked our way through them."
The Lumberjacks completed a long stretch away from Flagstaff last week, earning a split on the road with a sweep at Sacramento State on Thursday before falling to Portland State in four sets Saturday. With the split, Northern Arizona is 4-2 in the Big Sky Conference, tied for fourth in the league, and 6-9 overall after having won five of its last eight matches.
The win at Sacramento State was particularly momentous given the Lumberjacks' historic struggles in The Nest. The win was just the Lumberjacks' second all-time in the venue and snapped an eight-match losing streak to the Hornets on the road going back a decade.
Last week, the Lumberjacks had their most prolific serving weekend. Northern Arizona tied a season-high of nine aces in the win at Sacramento State, and two days later the team set a new season-best mark with 10 aces against Portland State. Junior Taylor Jacobsen and sophomore Kate Hatch combined for 14 of the team's 19 aces last weekend. Jacobsen had nine herself, including a career-high five in a single match versus the Hornets.
In addition to the strong serving, Northern Arizona also had an exceptional weekend in the blocks column. The Lumberjacks, led by their middle blocker duo of sophomores Jordan Elder and Savannah Bloom, averaged 2.43 blocks per set between the two matches.
Following a pair of impressive games for both, forward Sam Larberg and defender Rylie Curran were named Big Sky Offensive and Defensive Athletes of the Week. It is the first time both have earned the accolade in their careers as Lumberjacks.
Larberg scored three goals over the weekend, two on Friday against Weber State and one against Idaho State on Sunday. Her pair of goals on Friday came just two minutes apart on a second-chance goal along with quick read to pass up Weber State's defenders. Larberg scored the first goal of the match on Sunday in the second half, firing up the Lumberjacks offense.
Curran has put on an impressive show on the backline throughout the season, while showcasing her dominant performance this weekend against the Wildcats and Bengals. Curran had three slide tackles to breakup set pieces from both Weber State and Idaho State's offense, holding opponents to one goal on the weekend and seven shots on goal.