NAU traveled to Gainesville, Florida to compete in the Gators Invitational Friday and Saturday. Day one consisted of two matchups against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and none other than the Florida Gators themselves.
Game one: NAU vs. the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
NAU played the University of Louisiana at Lafayette looking to extend a four-game winning streak before a tough matchup against No. 11 Florida looming large later in the day.
Despite NAU holding their own, the Cajuns held a lead over NAU for the majority of the first set. However, the Lumberjacks did not have plans of dropping a set. They kept it close and managed to claw their way back past the Cajuns to take the first set 25-23.
The second set would start the way the first ended, both teams exchanging points with NAU eventually pulling away and taking a 21-14 lead.
Louisiana did not go quietly as they fought their way back to keep the set close. The Cajuns ultimately came up short, as the Lumberjacks took the set 25-21, the largest margin of victory NAU would have in this matchup.
The Lumberjacks cruised into the third set with a chance to make the Cajuns their fourth straight sweep.
Once again, NAU found a way to take a commanding lead out of the gates and ended the set with a display of dominance by leading 20-10. The Cajuns once again came storming back, this time with a 9-0 run making the set interesting. The Lumberjacks came out on top after long rallies to finished the job 25-23.
With NAU winning the final set, they secured their fourth straight sweep and fifth straight win.
NAU is now 7-3 on the season in a difficult non-conference schedule. Next for the Lumberjacks was a tough test against No. 11 Florida, who the Jacks upset last year in Flagstaff. NAU would need to capitalize on their momentum to take down the tough Gator team.
Game two: NAU vs. University of Florida
In the fourth game of the Gators Invitational, NAU faced No. 11 ranked Florida in the Gator's home court.
Last year, the Lumberjacks upset the Gators at NAU in a 5 set match. The Gators were ranked No. 8 in the country at the time, marking one of NAU’s biggest wins in program history.
Florida is 7-2 on the season and is also going for their second win of the Gators Invitational after beating Liberty University 3-0. Both teams came into tonight’s showdown riding a five game winning streak, but Florida looked for revenge from last year’s loss.
Florida was on top of their game to start the match. The Gators went on an 8-0 run to take an early 13-5 lead in the first set, which lead to NAU’s second timeout.
Florida sophomore outside hitter Thayer Hall took control of the first set offensively for the Gators by leading them to a 25-14 first set win with 8 kills.
Florida sophomore middle blocker Lauren Dooley slowed down the NAU offense and led her team with 2 blocks in the first set. Florida had a hitting percentage of .333 and held NAU to .026 in the opening set.
A rally heavy second set led Florida to a 14-10 lead over NAU. Florida came out of an NAU timeout and finished the second set strong as they won 25-17.
NAU senior outside hitter Sydney Lema held her own versus the Gators with 5 kills and 5 digs heading into the third set.
Florida took another early lead, 13-7, over NAU in the third set. The final set ended as quickly as it came. All the home fans were on their feet as redshirt junior Darrielle King got the block to give Florida a 25-13 third set win.
The Gators controlled the game from start to finish and made it hard for NAU to get any momentum going in a tough environment.
Florida extended their winning streak to 6 as they snapped NAU’s 5 game streak. NAU moved to 7-4 on the season and the Gators are now 8-2 on the season.
NAU will close out the Gators Invitational by playing Liberty University Saturday. The Liberty Flames have a record of 6-5 on the season and are coming off a 3-2 win over the University of Louisiana.