Before starting a three-game homestand over the next two weeks, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team will make a quick road trip to face Denver on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Lumberjacks will be seeking their first three-game winning streak since 2015.
"It seems like we've been on the road a lot, but we're getting more comfortable in preparing a young team to go on the road and perform the way they're capable of," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "It'll be good to face a really good Denver team that will challenge us in every way. I think we match up really well with them, and I think it'll be a great game."
Northern Arizona has won its last two games to move to 2-3 overall. Most recently, the Lumberjacks dominated Antelope Valley on Monday, 104-49, in Tuba City. Six players scored in double-digits in the victory, led by 16 each from redshirt senior Kenna McDavis and junior Kaleigh Paplow, who will be returning home to Denver this weekend.
Redshirt senior Olivia Lucero is tied for third in the Big Sky with 19.2 points per game, while also ranking second in the conference with 5.0 assists per game. McDavis and Paplow are averaging 17.4 points and 15.4 points per game, respectively, and were two of three players to record double-doubles against Antelope Valley along with freshman Khiarica Rasheed. Rasheed posted season-bests of 13 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Northern Arizona defeated Denver last season in the Walkup Skydome, 82-67, which snapped a two-game skid in the all-time series to the Pioneers.
Denver is coming off a narrow 61-56 loss to in-state rival Colorado State Thursday night at home to drop its record to an even 4-4 this season. The Pioneers, who had won three of their previous four, were picked seventh in the preseason Summit League poll.
Madison Nelson leads the Pioneers in scoring, and is the only player averaging double figures, with 11.1 points per game. She also ranks second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per game and leads the team with seven blocks. Jordan Alt scored nine points and recorded a game-high 11 rebounds versus Colorado State. Alt paces Denver with 9.0 rebounds per contest.
Denver is outscoring its opponents by seven points a game and is averaging 67.4 per game. As a team, the Pioneers are shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc and averaging over eight made 3-pointers per game.
SWIM AND DIVE
Another day, another all-time performance by a Northern Arizona swimmer.
On the third day of the Texas Invitational, freshman Niamh McDonagh moved into fifth in program history in the 400 individual medley after recording the Lumberjacks' best finish of the meet so far in 19th overall.
McDonagh's morning swim was impressive enough, as her preliminary time of 4:25.79 was not only good enough to qualify for the C final, but it was more than two seconds faster than her previous season-best. McDonagh then went even faster in the finals, cutting a full four seconds off her prelim time to slide into fifth in program history at 4:21.14.
"It's a sign of what we expect out of her through the rest of the season. Kimmy (Richter) had a big improvement in the 200 freestyle from her 500 yesterday, and really we had solid 200s," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns.
McDonagh was not the only Northern Arizona swimmer in the 400 IM C final. Junior Sarah Takach finished 22nd overall with a finals time of 4:24.37. The Lumberjacks pair was the first two swimmer to swim in the third-fastest heat of their respective individual event this week.
Senior Alina Staffeldt competed in the D final in the 100 butterfly and placed 32nd. Her best time of the day came during the prelims, where she posted a time of 55.38.
In the 200 freestyle, senior Kimmy Richter, redshirt junior Monique King and freshman Sam Milewski all recorded season-best times, but were unable to qualify for an evening swim. Richter led the NAU trio with a time of 1:50.76, while King recorded a time of 1:51.54 and Milewski at 1:52.16.
Takach (1:05.41) and McDonagh (1:07.25) also both swam the 100 breaststroke. In between the two of them was senior Roni Houck, who turned in a lifetime-best 100 breast time of 1:05.45. Freshman Sarah O'Connor rounded out NAU's individual results with a time of 57.00 in the 100 backstroke.
O'Connor, Houck, Staffeldt and freshman Elisa Rodriguez finished Friday's day three action with a time of 1:46.87 in the 200 medley relay.
The Texas Invitational wraps up with the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, mile freestyle and 400 freestyle relay on Saturday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. Preliminary rounds for the individual events will begin at 9 a.m. with the finals to follow at 5 p.m.