Coined by Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, the “let’s play two” phrase was alive at the Rolle Activity Center Friday as NAU volleyball hosts this weekend’s two-day showcase.
The Lumberjacks got the better of a five-set duel with the University of California, Davis in their first match of the day, but fatigued in the fourth set against ASU to drop a late-night affair.
NAU felt the electricity in the building as the Lumberjacks contingency packed Rolle for the first time in almost two years.
For the team’s freshmen and sophomores, it was their first time experiencing a crowd this big on the college level.
“It was so fun,” sophomore defensive specialist Millie O’Ketter said. “Having everyone else cheer for you brings a whole other aspect. Shoutout to the band. It just makes it feel more real.”
While the crowd was hot at the onset of the match, the Lumberjacks came out cold as the Sun Devils got an early 3-0 lead and NAU had no answer, dropping the first set 25-18.
A common theme from last season returned Friday evening as service errors reared their ugly head in the opening set for the Lumberjacks. The team committed four to top off the sluggish start. NAU went on to commit another 11 en route to the loss.
“We need to keep learning about ourselves as a team,” NAU head coach Ken Murphy said. “The team knows we want to be aggressive in that phase. We just got to learn how to do it in a game situation when we’ve been doing it well in practice.”
The Lumberjacks fell victim to their own service errors through the second set, but it was sophomore Lyla Hollis continuing her monumental day with a kill and an ace on back-to-back points to lead NAU to a gritty win in the second set.
Hollis capped the evening game with 20 kills on 53 attacks to put a bow on a day that saw her set a career-high 22 kills in the first game against UC Davis.
“She understands what she is capable of,” Murphy said. “We asked her to be a bigger part of our offense and expand her range, and she’s really responded to that.”
Hollis wasn’t the only one that produced offensively as junior outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen and redshirt junior outside hitter Morgan Gappmayer had nine kills apiece.
The Lumberjacks are now 1-5 on the year, which marks their worst start to a season in over a decade.
“I think we are just putting all of our pieces together,” O’Ketter said. “We have talented players and we just need to work on playing together more.”
The youth of this team may be a factor for why it has taken a while for the Lumberjacks to click.
“It’s good to know where we are nationally,” Murphy said. “We know we have such an inexperienced team and we need to take advantage of all these opportunities.”
NAU will close out the Lumberjack Classic Saturday afternoon against Utah Valley University before a home-and-home series with the University of New Mexico next weekend.