Blame it on the heavy snowfall, the absence of fans or just pure complacency, but NAU volleyball did not look good in a 3-1 loss against California State University, Sacramento Monday evening.
After a clean sweep of Sacramento State just over 24 hours earlier, both teams ventured through the treacherous snowfall outside the Rolle Activity Center to rematch in their opening series to begin the 2021 season.
NAU and the Hornets went back and forth in the first set after the Lumberjacks took an early 3-0 lead. Midway through the first set, sophomore libero Paige Swinney went down with an injury for Sac State and never returned to the match. The outlook was not good early for the Hornets. Swinney was vital in their opening match as she collected 12 digs.
However, a run of three-straight errors from the Lumberjacks catalyzed energy from the Hornets as they took the lead late in the set. NAU added another four errors to end the set and Sac State stung the Lumberjacks in a 25-18 opening-set win.
“They [Sac State] were a little more motivated and played harder today,” NAU head coach Ken Murphy said.
The second set looked like the Lumberjacks from Sunday as sophomore outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen asserted her dominance in the attack. She had five kills in the set as the Lumberjacks cruised to a 25-13 win.
Both teams exchanged points early in the third set, but after three service errors, the Hornets found a 6-0 run to go up 16-10 and NAU collapsed from there. Sac State took the set on a 9-0 scoring run led by sophomore setter McKenna Smith, who closed the third with three aces.
Freshman middle blocker Savannah Bloom provided a much-needed spark in the fourth set as she had three important kills, but it didn’t garner long-term momentum for NAU as the errors compiled, allowing Sac State the advantage they needed to close out the match.
With a young roster containing just one senior, the growing pains showed for NAU Monday, but Murphy said he’s optimistic about his young roster moving forward.
“The question now is: ‘Can we learn these lessons as fast as possible?,” Murphy said. “Can we minimize the number of times we have to relearn the same thing going through this year?”
The Lumberjacks will look to bounce back from a rough outing as they head up to Cascadia for a two-game series at Portland State University.