NAU volleyball breaks losing streak in win against Montana

NAU sophomore setter Aubrea Bandfield (8) sets the ball for senior middle Abby Aiken (9) during their game against the University of Montana at the Rolle Activity Center Oct. 12.

The NAU women’s volleyball team came away with a 3-2 win against the University of Montana Grizzlies after sparking a comeback effort in the third set. The victory took place Oct. 12 in the Rolle Activity Center.

The Lumberjacks came back after being down 2-0. They took the third and fourth sets, tying the match 2-2 and sending both teams into a high-pressure fifth set. Down 13-11 in the fifth set, the Lumberjacks dug deep in the last few volleys and edged past the Grizzlies, taking the win against Montana to finish out a week of ups, downs and adjustments.

One major adjustment this week was a position change for NAU senior outside hitter Sydney Lema, who was seen wearing the libero jersey in both matches this week. The move was part of a different attack scheme ⁠— an attempt to create more offensive opportunities for the Lumberjacks, which came to fruition in Saturday’s win.

“My mindset is to try and do everything I can to help the team,” Lema said. “Me giving 100% of my effort no matter where I am is how I normally lead. I lead by doing what I’m supposed to do.”

The Lumberjacks needed a spark halfway into the third set of their match, having lost the first two sets to the Grizzlies 25-22 and 25-21. NAU was able to build just enough cushion with two kills from freshman outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen and sophomore opposite hitter Ryann Davis, and a service ace from Davis to make it 16-10, which shifted the momentum across the net. The Lumberjacks took the third set 25-17, keeping their momentum alive and capitalizing on little errors from the Grizzlies to take the fourth set 25-17.

Both teams tied 2-2, the Lumberjacks needed to dig deep heading into the final set of the match. The Grizzlies took an early lead in the fifth set, which put the Lumberjacks on the offensive. NAU was down 13-11 and called a timeout.

After a quick break, the Lumberjacks came out and made a huge turnaround effort, capitalizing on services to take home the 3-2-win. Senior middle blocker Abby Akin sealed the win with a kill right down the center that gave the Lumberjacks the win they desperately needed Saturday afternoon.

“We were beating ourselves up a little bit,” Akin said. “A few of us realized that we just needed to play volleyball and that there’s nothing to lose, and we came out swinging.”

With the win, NAU snapped a three-game losing streak and is now 10-8 in the season overall and 3-3 in conference play. The Lumberjacks hope to carry the energy from this win and build on it more as they head to Moscow, Idaho to take on the University of Idaho Vandals Oct. 17.

“We have to prove to ourselves that we can be successful in these pressured situations, and we had [three matches] in a row where we weren’t,” said NAU head coach Ken Murphy. “That can get into your head a little bit and can make you start to really think about that situation. I was really proud of how we performed at that third set … That learning experience is more valuable than anything.”