The Northern Arizona volleyball team showed on Saturday that when it has all phases of the game clicking at once it’s a dangerous team.
Abby Akin recorded a team-high 14 points, Kaylie Jorgenson helped rally the troops in the third set and the Lumberjacks (12-7, 4-2 Big Sky) toppled the Montana Grizzlies (7-11, 4-2) in the second set, 25-9, as part of a sweep at Rolle Activity Center Saturday night.
Akin ended her night with 10 kills, with four coming in both the second and third sets for the Lumberjacks, who completed the week sweep of the Montana schools in perfect fashion. In fact, it was the first perfect week for Northern Arizona so far during the Big Sky Conference schedule.
Northern Arizona went on a 10-0 run in the second stanza, during which it hit a hot .500 and had a 77 percent side-out performance. On defense, the Lumberjacks were just as solid, holding Montana to .080 hitting for the match.
An Akin kill in the middle during the 10-0 run saw Northern Arizona double its lead to 14-7, and she combined with outside hitter Ryann Davis for a block that made it 18-7. Abby Stomp made it a 10-point lead at 17-all with an ace during the surge.
“I think we have a group capable of doing that more often than that even,” said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy of his team’s second-set dominance. “When we do, you can see it’s really hard to score against us. We block well, we defend well and serve well, and we want to create that situation for teams as often as we can.”
The Grizzlies, playing scrappy to force a few long volleys during the night, fell short in trying to avoid the sweep. Lumberjacks middle blocker Brittni Dorsey ended a long, back-and-forth point in the third set with a kill from a clean assist from Aubrea Bandfield, the crowd roared and the momentum shifted as Northern Arizona cut the deficit to 20-17 on the point.
Using a strong side-out effort to climb back from a third-set 20-15 deficit, Northern Arizona knotted it up at 23-23 on an Akin push to the back row and took the lead when Davis followed with her own push into an opening on the court. Davis, who tallied eight total kills, tooled the block for match point at 25-24 and Jorgenson got the touch call on a hit for the 26-24 victory.
“We were keeping our composure, siding out on the first serve, making sure we had a chance we could get our service score again,” Murphy said about the rally in the finale. “We were just so patient, working our way through there.”
Jorgenson led all hitters with 11 kills that she paired with 26 digs for a double-double. She tallied a set-high of five in the third stanza to help the Lumberjacks keep the game from getting out of hand.
Akin hit .500 on the night, and notched one solo block and six assisted, and Northern Arizona came away with seven team blocks total to Montana’s six.
The Lumberjacks spread the ball out well, with right-side hitter Heaven Harris leading the attack in the first set with six kills. Harris added nine total kills in the winning effort, a few of which were key in a first set that, like the third, had several long, scrappy volleys.
“In the first set, they were camping on the right side, so in a huddle before the second set started we were like, ‘What can we do better?'” Akin said. “We decided to run the middles so we can get a more wide-spread offense and I think it was very effective in the last two sets.”
Northern Arizona outlasted Montana in the opening stanza, 25-23. The first game ended on a Montana service error when Cassie Laramee tried to sneak in on a short serve that found the net.
Harris ended one of long first-set battles with a hit off the block to tie it up 18-all. Libero Jordan Anderson, who tallied 23 digs, followed with an ace and Northern Arizona took the lead and didn’t look back courtesy of a 5-1 run sparked by the Harris point.
Although each rotation shined, the winning head coach had something to say about one of his two setters.
“I thought Abby Stomp had the best match of her career,” Murphy said. “I thought she served well, played great defense and gave the ball to the right hitter over and over again, and often it was the middle or right, but over and over again she allowed us to score.”
Stomp finished with a team-high 23 assists to go with eight digs.
Northern Arizona starts two weeks of road play with Southern Utah on Monday, with first serve set for 5:30 p.m.