VOLLEYBALL FALLS AT NORTHERN ARIZONA
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Northern Arizona middle hitters Niki Small (9) and Chelsea Cheeley (9) combined for 18 kills and a .417 hitting percentage to lead the Lumberjacks to a three-set sweep of Sacramento State (25-23, 25-21, 25-21) in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Saturday evening at the Rolle Activity Center.
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped to 7-10 overall and 0-2 in the Big Sky, marking just the second time since joining the conference in 1996 that the Hornets have gone winless in their first two Big Sky matches. In addition, Sacramento State had won 11 of the last 12 meetings with Northern Arizona prior to tonight’s loss.
The Lumberjacks, who are now a perfect 4-0 at home this year, improved to 6-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky. Northern Arizona is now 8-28 all-time against Sacramento State in a series which dates back to 1991.
A theme that is becoming all too frequent of late, the Hornets again had trouble hitting for a high percentage. Sacramento State hit just .088 (39-28-125), marking the ninth straight match in which the team has hit below .150. During that nine-match run, the Hornets have combined for a .103 hitting percentage (368-227-1373) and are 2-7 during that span.
Hitting the ball efficiently tonight would have helped as Sacramento State led Northern Arizona in kills (39-36), assists (36-35) and team blocks (10.0-8.0). However, the Lumberjacks took advantage of nine Hornet service errors, and Sacramento State failed to hit above .156 in any of the three sets.
The Hornets looked to be in control of the first set after an NAU attack error gave Sacramento State a 23-21 lead. However, the Lumberjacks concluded the set on a 4-0 run, punctuated by a Lexi Sullivan kill to end the frame. NAU jumped out to a 20-14 lead in the second and a 21-15 lead in the third before pulling out both sets by a 25-21 score.
For the Hornets, junior Eryn Kirby led the team with nine kills as Northern Arizona limited the Sacramento State outside hitter tandem of Kirby (9) and Janelle Currey (8) to just 17 combined kills. Junior middle hitter Kelsey Elston had seven kills, four blocks and a .263 hitting percentage, and was the only Hornet with more than one kill to hit better than .200 for the match. Freshman rightside hitter Kayla Beal added six kills and three blocks. Junior libero Breanne Menees (match-high 20 digs) was the only Hornet to finish with more than eight digs.
For the Lumberjacks, Small’s nine kills (9-0-23) accompanied a .391 hitting percentage while Cheeley’s nine kills (9-3-13) came with a match-best .462 hitting percentage. The duo were the only NAU players with more than six kills. Anna Gott led the Lumberjacks with 16 digs and Jen Wilson added a match-high six blocks.
Tonight marked the end of a run of nine consecutive matches away from home for the Hornets. Sacramento State returns to the friendly confines for the first time in nearly a month next week when its opens a four-match homestand against Eastern Washington on Friday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m.