NAU came into this match looking for its second two-game sweep of the season and their first since sweeping Portland State University two weeks ago. After defeating Eastern Washington Sunday in three sets, the Lumberjacks came into Monday looking for another win.
Eastern Washington was determined to even the series and hung with the Lumberjacks through the start of the match. However, the tide turned when freshman middle blocker Savannah Bloom delivered a ferocious kill when NAU led only 11-9, giving the serve back to the Lumberjacks. Bloom then helped deliver three consecutive points to give NAU control of the set with a 15-9 advantage. With strong saves from junior setter Aubrea Bandfield and freshman defensive specialist Millie O’Ketter, NAU won the first set 25-16.
NAU head coach Ken Murphy said he was impressed with Bloom’s impact in this game.
“Her blocking was huge,” Murphy said. “Her stats were good, but she positively touched so many balls and made their hitters adjust what they were trying to do and made our defense better.”
The second set started poorly for NAU as the Eagles constantly caught the Lumberjacks out of position and took a 5-2 lead, which eventually grew to 12-7 before Murphy called a timeout. The Eagles continued to capitalize as they led 17-9, forcing Murphy to call another timeout. Bloom helped secure another two points on her serve, but a kill from redshirt sophomore outside hitter Maya McClellan gave the momentum back to the Eagles. Eastern Washington won the second set 25-17, evening the match at one set apiece.
As the Eagles looked to take a critical third set on their mission to even the series with NAU, both teams struggled to get any momentum going. Neither team took a lead larger than a single point until NAU led 11-9. There were four service errors in the first 18 during the third set, and as errors became commonplace throughout, NAU held a slim advantage over the Eagles. Eventually, sophomore outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen helped the Lumberjacks to an 18-14 lead that forced an Eastern Washington timeout.
Jacobsen continued to dominate for the Lumberjacks, forcing the Eagles into many errors that cost them a chance to take the lead in the match. The Lumberjacks won the third set 25-17.
The Lumberjacks winning the third set injected confidence into their veins as the Lumberjacks came out in the fourth set firing, determined to finish off their season sweep of the Eagles. NAU jumped out to a 7-3 lead as they forced the Eagles into a multitude of errors. However, the Eagles battled back to force an 11-11 tie. Freshman outside hitter Lyla Hollis, NAU’s leader in service aces, led a 4-0 run that gave NAU a 15-11 lead.
In the end, Jacobsen and the Lumberjacks were too much for the scrappy Eagles, winning the fourth set 25-20 and securing the sweep. With the win, the Lumberjacks improve to 6-2 on the season while the Eagles drop to 3-6.
Bloom finished with 11 blocks, O’Ketter recorded a team-high 19 digs and Jacobsen led NAU with 16 kills. As a team, NAU won the kills battle 47-43, had 12 fewer attacking errors and out-blocked the Eagles 10-8.
Murphy was proud of the way the Lumberjacks overcame that second-set loss.
“It was hard,” Murphy said. “We had to get ourselves back together. Sometimes when you’re in another match, that’s not the easiest thing to do ... a few weeks ago, I don’t know if we would have made a change like that so fast.”
The Lumberjacks will head to Moscow, Idaho next week for a two-game series with the Idaho Vandals.