The Lumberjacks celebrate after scoring a point against Sacramento State at the Rolle Activity Center, Jan. 24.

NAU volleyball started their season the right way at the Rolle Activity Center against Cal State University, Sacramento Sunday afternoon. In a shortened season where every game is vital to the Big Sky Conference standings, NAU started hot and kept their momentum throughout all three sets, sweeping the Hornets. 

The Lumberjacks had a lot of questions with their young roster and were thrown straight into the fire with only conference games to start the season. Both teams came into this game with a lot to prove as the season began.

NAU started their season with a bit of a surprise as senior opposite Heaven Harris was not in the starting lineup. Despite Harris’ absence, NAU won their first two points of the season, before the Hornets evened the set. 

Harris entered after the Hornets won their first point, but the first set was dominated by a different Lumberjack. 

Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen led the Lumberjacks with six kills through the first set as NAU slowly pulled away. They slowly added to their first set lead, never went on a massive run, but walked away with a 25-15 win in the first set.

Jacobsen’s domination was on display at the start of the second set, but the Hornets found their groove midway through the set. NAU managed to stay within striking distance of Sacramento State and the two teams traded points with the Lumberjacks, neither getting ahead by more than five points. The Hornets had multiple opportunities to get back in control, cutting NAU’s lead to just one.

“We talked about reinvesting in our defense,” NAU head coach Ken Murphy said of how the Lumberjacks survived the tough stretch. “We thought we just gave away some plays that we hadn’t earlier in the match.”

NAU’s early advantage, thanks to Jacobsen, proved to be the difference maker as the lead was just enough for the Lumberjacks to survive. Harris also left her impression all over the second set, finishing with five kills. Jacobsen continued her domination, adding another eight kills for the Lumberjacks as they came within one set of victory, finishing the close second set 25-22. 

Both teams once again exchanged blows to start the third set with no team finding the upper hand early. The breaking point came for the Lumberjacks as they pulled away midway through the set. 

Thanks to a team effort, Sacramento State was stuck at 11 for what felt like an eternity as NAU stretched their lead to 19-11 before a service error cost NAU a point. Sacramento State rallied, but it was not enough to overcome the lead built by the Lumberjacks. NAU walked out with a sweep after the final set wrapped 25-19 in their favor. 

NAU will play Sacramento State again Monday evening as the Hornets will be poised to get revenge, but this young Lumberjacks team starts their season in the best way possible — with a sweep of a conference rival.