The Lumberjacks closed out their three-game road series with a hard fought victory over the Southern Utah University (SUU) Thunderbirds. This was NAU’s second win this week, bringing its overall record to 12-9 and their conference record to 5-4. This was a four-set win for the Lumberjacks, and the highest scorers were senior outside hitter Sydney Lema with 16 kills and senior middle blocker Abby Akin with 13 kills.
In the first set, NAU played conservatively and lost by 12 points. SUU got three kills in a row before NAU got its first point, and continued to hit the ball about half as often as the Thunderbirds for the rest of the set. There were eight attack errors by NAU, which became advantageous to SUU.
The Thunderbirds maintained a brief lead early in the second set. NAU pulled ahead after getting a kill and SUU had three errors in a row.
Both sides of the net battled for a lead throughout the middle of the second set. The score was tied when SUU committed two more errors, and after gaining a one-point advantage from those errors, NAU maintained its lead and continued to expand it. As the set continued, the Thunderbirds began to slow down. Lema, assisted by senior setter Abby Stomp, ended the second set with a kill and brought the score to 25-15, securing a win for the Lumberjacks.
The two teams saw a rise in intensity during the third set. It started similarly to the second set, with both teams continuously catching up to each other and unable to maintain a solid lead. The Lumberjacks gradually widened the gap, maintaining a 3 to 4 point advantage for the remainder of the set. Assisted by sophomore setter Aubrea Bandfield, Lema closed out the set with another kill.
Unlike the first two sets, the fourth was fast-paced and closely matched. The Thunderbirds and Lumberjacks battled back-and-forth with neither team gaining a strong lead. SUU had a 3-point lead over the Lumberjacks, but NAU was able to regain a lead and secure the victory. Akin scored the winning kill for NAU, which was assisted by Bandfield.
NAU will return home for a match in the Rolle Activity Center Thursday against the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The Bears are undefeated in conference play with a sparkling 8-0 record.