NAU volleyball falls at Idaho State

POCATELLO, Idaho — In the first of two anticipated matchups between the Big Sky South Division co-leaders, both the Northern Arizona volleyball team and Idaho State dominated their way to a set win to begin Saturday night’s meeting. Then the Bengals prevailed in the final two to come away with the 14-25, 25-14, 30-28, 25-23 victory to take sole possession of the division at the midway point of conference play.

With the loss, the Lumberjacks dropped to 15-4 overall and 6-2 within the Big Sky. It was NAU’s first defeat this season when winning the first set.

NAU struck first in a convincing manner, hitting .290 in the first set and forcing Idaho State into 12 attack errors and a -.176 clip. A 5-0 run ignited the set for NAU, giving the Lumberjacks an 11-4 lead. The ‘Jacks never trailed in the opening stanza, leading by as many as 12 at 22-10 in picking up the early 1-0 lead.

The Bengals returned the favor in the second set, winning the first five points and 16 of the first 18. Although NAU finished the set by taking seven of the final 10 points, the furious start by the home team was too much for the Lumberjacks to overcome. In stark contrast to the first set, Idaho State hit .485 to even the match at 1-1.

After two lopsided sets, the third set played out as expected coming into the match with both squads scrapping for the crucial 2-1 lead. Idaho State had the early edge at 13-9 before the Lumberjacks made their move eventually tying the score at 15-15. Consecutive points by NAU off a service error and a solo block by junior Payton Bock put the ‘Jacks in front, 19-17, before the set was tied at 22-all.

The drama was just getting started in the third set, as the teams would be knotted up every step of the way at 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 with NAU holding two set points and Idaho State with three chances to win the set in the span. With their fourth chance to win, the Bengals finally claimed the victory in the marathon set, winning the final two points.

The fourth set was another nail-biter with the Bengals rallying late to prevent a fifth. The set was evenly played through the first 30 points at 15-15, until Idaho State tried to finish off NAU with a 6-2 run to take its biggest lead of the set at 21-17. There, the Lumberjacks put together an impressive 5-0 run with three kills from junior Janae Vander Ploeg and a pair of solo blocks by sophomore Isabelle Gosar. With momentum on NAU’s side, Idaho State was forced to call both of its timeouts during the stretch but ultimately responded by taking four of the last five points to deny the Lumberjacks’ late push.

Both teams showcased a strong defensive effort with neither team hitting above .200. NAU narrowly outhit the Bengals, .181-.171., and held the blocking advantage, 13.0-9.0. But Idaho State won the service line with five aces while shutting out NAU in the ace department.

Redshirt junior Stacia Williams posted a match-high 25 digs, the best total of her career, while Bock and Gosar each recorded four blocks. Senior Sydney Kemper led the Lumberjacks with 13 kills and sophomore Jensen Barton posted a double-double with 35 assists and 12 digs.