The NAU women’s volleyball team finished their season the way any team would want to finish a season – with a six-game win streak. The Lumberjacks cleaned up this weekend with two sweeping victories as they defeated the Eastern Washington University Eagles Thursday and the University of Idaho Vandals 3-0 Saturday at the Rolle Activity Center.
It was a senior night to remember as NAU bid farewell to three seniors that were "deeply impactful to say the least," as head coach Ken Murphy put it. Seniors middle blocker Abby Akin, setter Abby Stomp and outside hitter Sydney Lema were met with a roaring and packed crowd of fans in a show of gratitude for their time at NAU.
“There’s a great legacy here and they’ve continued to carry it forward,” Murphy said. “These are great kids, they do everything that we’ve asked them to and they have all the values NAU volleyball stands for.”
NAU, in its last regular-season performance, put together excellent volleys and scoring at will, rattling the Vandals across the net. The Lumberjacks finished the first two sets with 25-16 wins before running away with the third match 25-12 to seal the game.
Excitement flooded the Rolle Activity Center as the crowd made a tunnel to bring out the Lumberjacks for the final set. It was more than apparent that overwhelming confidence slowly took over the arena as each set progressed.
“It honestly feels like we’re unstoppable,” Lema said. “When we do our thing and we trust what we’re doing, we’re so good and we play so well together. I think everyone’s feeling that and we’re pretty confident going into playoffs as well as excited.”
It was an emotional end to the regular season for Lema and her senior teammates. Bouquets were handed out and dozens of cameras snapped as the team and their families all gathered to get photos with the three seniors as NAU said goodbye to three true impact players.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Akin said. “It hasn’t quite hit me yet that this is my last home game, but I think we played really well. We’ve been training hard to play as good as we did today and I think today we achieved that goal.”’
One key component to the team's success down the final stretch can be attributed to the return of junior outside hitter Heaven Harris. She arrived with just enough time to get her wind back under her wings, leading Saturday’s match with 9 kills and putting up big numbers Nov. 16 against Montana State University, finishing with 20 kills on the night.
“[Harris] obviously produces so much offensively and has such a huge block, but more than that she just gives us great energy,” Murphy said. “She just understands the way we play on a very deep level. When she’s on the court we’re very steady and we look exactly like what we envision ourselves to be.”
With Harris back in rotation, the Lumberjacks are geared up for the Big Sky Conference Championship tournament in Greely, Colorado, as they finish the season 20-10 overall and 13-5 in conference play. NAU will arrive in Greely Nov. 28 with a good position for the tournament as they sit just below the University of Northern Colorado at the No. 2 spot.