Following a straight-set loss to Florida State the day before, NAU looked to redeem itself against the host of the Tiger Classic, LSU, who was also looking for their first win of the season after dropping its opener to Michigan in four sets.
This match was originally scheduled for today at 3 p.m. MST, but due to the oncoming presence of Hurricane Ida, the match was moved up to 10:30 a.m. MST as a precaution. The move was made in an attempt to move NAU’s match against Michigan up to today at 3:30 p.m. MST. However, earlier in the day it was announced that all Saturday evening matches had been canceled.
NAU and LSU had played one another only once before back on September 13, 2019, where the Lumberjacks swept them in three sets, giving the Tigers its only loss in the Lumberjack Classic that season.
The Lumberjacks came out a lot stronger this time around thanks in large part to a great start by junior outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen, who continued her performance from yesterday where she held game-highs in points, attacks, and led the Lumberjacks in kills. The Big Sky First Teamer opened up with five of NAU’s 11 kills in the first set. She once again led NAU with 16 kills, tying the opposing team leader in kills yet again. The quick start gave the Lumberjacks a 4-2 lead in the first set and each team would trade blows from thereon forward.
Six lead changes in the first set made the set an exciting one to watch. After a service ace by LSU right side senior Taylor Banister that gave the Tigers a three-point winning streak, NAU head coach Ken Murphy called a timeout looking to swing the momentum back in his team’s favor.
After a kill by freshman opposite hitter Sophia Wadsworth in her second career match that tied the set 17-17, LSU went on to score 8 of the next 10 points to take the first set 25-19.
The Tigers kept on the offensive with a 3-0 start in the second set. Just like in set one, NAU elected to sub in sophomore setter Katie Hatch for Wadsworth. With LSU leading the set 8-5. NAU won a point due to an official call that LSU middle blocker Whitney Foreman made a third team touch before the ball was sent over for a fourth touch.
LSU head coach Fran Flory challenged the call claiming that Foreman never touched the ball and there were only three touches. A long review of the play found no conclusive evidence towards either side, leading to the point being replayed, effectively giving LSU the challenge win. On the replayed point, NAU sophomore outside hitter Lyla Hollis picked up a clean kill, her second of eight in the match. That kill sparked a 4-point run from the Lumberjacks after the LSU challenge.
NAU couldn’t keep the momentum as the Lumberjacks followed up their streak with three consecutive errors by sophomore defensive specialist Millie O’Ketter, sophomore middle blocker Jordan Elder and Hollis respectively.
The struggles continued in the middle of the set for Hollis who committed two straight attack errors to give the Tigers a 13-11 lead. The Hollis errors bookended an LSU substitution that brought in junior defensive Jill Bohnet. Bohnet served on the second Hollis error and two more NAU errors after that from Jacobsen and Elder.
A service ace from LSU junior setter Karli Rose was enough for Murphy to call another timeout. NAU would go on to win four of the next five points thanks to three errors from the Tigers. Any time the Lumberjacks got within striking distance of LSU, the Tigers hit the gas as the team only trailed once during the second set, 9-8.
A clean kill from Hollis brought NAU within two at the end of the set to bring the set score 23-21. Flory called a timeout to reassure her squad that it only needed two points to take the set, which it did on a kill from Rose. LSU led the match two sets to none.
The desperation kicked in for the Lumberjacks heading into the third set. After a quiet second set, Jacobsen hit the ground running in the third with three kills to give NAU a 4-1 lead in the set, the largest NAU lead at the time.
After a kill from Wadworth to give NAU a 6-3 lead, the Tigers took four points in a row as it substituted in freshman defensive specialist Ella Larkin to take the serve. A service ace from her closed the book on the four-point swing.
Hollis continued her high involvement with a pair of kills in the middle of the set. A multitude of errors from the Tigers kept the Lumberjacks in the set. An error from Bannister and a block from NAU junior middle blocker Niche Newton gave the Lumberjacks the lead. Jacobsen’s 10th kill of the match put NAU up 15-13 and forced an NAU timeout.
After a kill from Foreman, Wadsworth broke out and had two huge kills, one hard hit and one tip made NAU the better-looking team in the third set. A kill from NAU junior outside hitter Morgan Gappmayer and another error from Bannister gave NAU its new largest lead of the match at 20-16.
In only her second career match, Wadsworth once again had the third most kills among the Lumberjacks, achieving a career-high of seven kills and a total of 10 in her young career.
A pair of kills from Bannister and Larkin brought the Tigers within one, making NAU take a timeout before they lost total momentum of the set. Despite the timeout, LSU continued the run with two more points with a pair of errors from Jacobsen to take a 21-22 lead. Murphy goes back to the drawing board and burns another timeout after just two plays.
The third set proved to be the most competitive as it consisted of 12 ties. Once the match was tied at 20 apiece, neither team pulled ahead by more than a point until the set was tied at 25 all. Now effectively in a deuce scenario, each team needed two straight points to win the set, and in LSU’s case, the match. A service ace from O’Ketter gave NAU the set point. Out of an LSU timeout, O’Ketter came up again with another ace after some miscommunication from the LSU receiving core. With that ace, NAU took the third set 27-25.
The even match continued in the fourth set as, once again, no team led by more than a point until a service ace from Bohnet gave LSU a 9-7 lead. After the ace, LSU took three of the next four points, finally adding some separation in the set and forcing a timeout.
LSU once again came out of an NAU timeout with three kills from LSU outside hitter Kylie Kuyava-Deberg in four points. The graduate student who played at Missouri during undergrad led the Tigers with 16 kills while only committing 5 errors. She once again pulled together consecutive kills off of assists from Rose to give LSU the match point. A kill from junior middle blocker Allie Morris, her sixth of the match, gave the Tigers a 25-18 set victory and a 3-1 overall win for the Tigers who picked up its first win of the season.
The one-two punch of Bannister and Kuyava-Deberg combined for 30 kills, allowing the Tigers to lead in the kill column 57-41. The two LSU representatives of the Preseason Volleyball All-SEC team found themselves all over the court and outplayed the duo of Jacobsen and Hollis who accounted for 19 of NAU’s 23 errors while LSU as a whole had 22 errors.
LSU, now 1-1, will head to the Penn State Classic and take on Iowa State on Friday, September 3.
With the previously scheduled match against Michigan canceled and Tuesday’s Colonel Classic match against the 3-0 Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana likely to meet the same fate, NAU will head to Nacogdoches, Texas for the SFA Tournament against host Stephen F. Austin on Thursday, September 2 at 4:30 p.m. MST.