Going into the 2020-21 season, it was assumed that NAU volleyball would suffer growing pains with a young roster. The Lumberjacks have made a handful of mistakes through four games this year, especially in their serving, but the surplus of talent has taken over to guide NAU to a 3-1 start.
Sunday afternoon, NAU closed out the two-game series with Portland State University and the first set was one of their worst performances in the budding season.
One eye-popping issue when watching the Lumberjacks play is they do not run different looks in their attack to throw off their opponents. Setters feed the ball to sophomore outside Taylor Jacobsen and senior opposite Heaven Harris and rely on their talent to net them points. The Lumberjacks ran no slide attacks, no feints and few backward sets.
This proved costly in the opening set as the Vikings were able to predict where hits were going. Portland State blocked and dug exceptionally to win the first set, where the Lumberjacks had an appalling negative hitting percentage as they only had nine kills to 10 errors. Portland State did not fare much better at the net, but they still had more kills than errors to walk away with a 25-20 set to open the match.
The second set became the turnaround the Lumberjacks needed.
NAU’s attack became diverse and the natural talent of Jacobsen and Harris did the rest with their stunning kills. The Lumberjacks finished with a hitting percentage of .350 to cruise to a 25-17 second-set win.
The Lumberjacks continued to dominate in the third set, but as they held a 23-18 lead the service errors began tainting one of NAU’s finest performances this year. NAU committed six service errors in the third set, but held on to secure a 25-23 win.
On top of the serving issues, NAU’s youth showed in this set as freshman middle blocker Savannah Bloom and freshman outside hitter Lyla Hollis looked out of their element Sunday. Hollis finished with just seven kills to five errors, while Bloom had a hitting percentage of zero with four kills to four errors.
Nonetheless, NAU’s talent prevailed in the end and they cruised to victory with a comfortable 25-18 fourth set to win the match 3-1.
Junior opposite Ryann Davis made up for some of the team’s errors as she finished with a kill-to-error ratio of 8-2.
Going forward, the Lumberjacks have a lot of work to do in their serves. They have committed double-digit service errors through each of their four games this season and, despite the wins, led their opponents in service errors through every game.
This is a very young team, so it will take a few more matches to discover the footing and unlock the potential they have flashed in spurts this season. They have a high ceiling and it will show as the season progresses.
The Lumberjacks will remain on the road next weekend as they head to Bozeman, Montana for a two-game series against the Montana State Bobcats.