NAU, Idaho Share Big Sky Regular Season Title

  0 volleymob | November 18th, 2018 | College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, News

Courtesy: Big Sky Conference

OGDEN, Utah – Northern Arizona and Idaho both earned a share of the 2018 Big Sky Volleyball regular season trophy on Saturday. The Lumberjacks and Vandals each finished Big Sky play with a conference record of 15-3.

Northern Arizona captured its first regular season title since the 2015 season. The Lumberjacks ended conference play on a 10-match win streak. The championship is the third overall for the Lumberjacks and second for head coach Ken Murphy.

For the second straight year, the University of Idaho volleyball squad has earned a share of the Big Sky regular season trophy. The Vandals finished the season with a victory at home and won as many as 12 consecutive matches. It is the sixth overall Big Sky regular season championship for the Vandals and the second for head coach Debbie Buchanan.

The Lumberjacks will be the No.1 seed heading into next week’s championship tournament, as they won the head-to-head match-up against Idaho, while the Vandals will be the No. 2 seed.

The Big Sky Volleyball Championship will be held from Nov. 22-24 in Greeley, Colo. at Bank of Colorado Arena.

Northern Arizona def. Eastern Washington 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-14)

  • NAU secures Big Sky regular season title
  • NAU moves to 23-8, 15-3 Big Sky; Eastern Washington moves to 8-22, 0-18 Big Sky
  • Cheney, Washington
  • Box Score

Courtesy: Northern Arizona Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. (November 17, 2018) – Two nights removed from an emotionally-charged first-place showdown and a flight in between, the Northern Arizona volleyball team took Eastern Washington’s best shots on Saturday. But the Lumberjacks would not be denied; not with a chance to clinch a share of the Big Sky regular season championship.

Behind a career-high 17 kills from junior Abby Akin and 13 kills from sophomore Heaven Harris, the ‘Jacks wound up sweeping the Eagles, 25-23, 25-22, 25-14 to seal up their third regular season title in program history. Both hitters were scorching all evening with Akin attacking at a .708 clip and Harris hitting .545 in NAU’s 10th consecutive victory to close the regular season.

“This is such a great group; they have shown how resilient and tough they are over the course of the second half of the season,” said head coach Ken Murphy. “I’m just fortunate enough to be their coach honestly.”

The Lumberjacks (23-8, 15-3 Big Sky) clinched the top seed in next week’s conference tournament and will face the eighth-seed Montana State at a time to be determined on Thursday, Nov. 22. NAU shared the regular season championship with Idaho, but by virtue of its head-to-head win on Thursday, the ‘Jacks will go into the tournament with the No. 1 seed.

Akin and Harris ensured that NAU would head to Greeley with its win streak intact despite Eastern Washington putting up a fight in its season finale. The pair were the biggest reasons for NAU’s .310 hitting percentage with junior Abby Stomp recording 44 assists. Stomp also tallied three of NAU’s four service aces.

Akin was also a wall in the middle, finding her way into seven of NAU’s 9.0 team blocks. Harris and junior Sydney Lema registered three blocks apiece as Eastern Washington hit .077.

Both teams had runs of four points during the early portion of the first set before NAU seemingly pulled away with a 5-1 run for an 18-13 advantage. Another 4-0 run by Eastern Washington closed the gap to 21-19 and the Eagles were a point away from forcing extra play in the first set, but Harris’ fifth kill put an end to the game.

Eastern Washington held an 8-5 lead, after scoring five straight points, in the second set only for NAU to come back with a 5-0 run of its own to retake a 13-10 lead. The teams continued to trade runs until NAU snapped a 22-22 tie – the seventh of the set – with the final three points. Redshirt senior Kaylie Jorgenson and Harris terminated two kills and Stomp gave NAU a two-set lead with an ace.

With the two tough sets behind them, the ‘Jacks rolled in the third set by hitting .500 in the final stanza. Akin had six kills, Harris had five and Jorgenson had four in the third game alone as a 5-0 set-opening run initiated a wire-to-wire victory and put away NAU’s sixth three-set sweep during its win streak.

“Tonight, we found a different way to be successful,” Murphy said. “Our serve and pass was a little off and we had to scratch and claw in the first two sets. The group kept grinding out points and at the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect but it’s about figuring it out. This team has done an amazing job of that over the last half of the season.”

One of the top digging teams in the country, NAU recorded 57, including a match-best 16 from senior Jordan Anderson and a season-high 12 by freshman Ryann Davis, on Saturday/ The Lumberjacks’ season total sits at 2,145 – the second-best total in program history only behind the 1999 team’s 2,224.

The Big Sky Championship kicks off in Greeley, Colo. on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Courtesy: Eastern Washington Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. – The 2018 season came to a close Saturday night (Nov. 17) for the Eastern Washington University volleyball team. The Eagles hosted Northern Arizona and battled with the first-place team, but fell in straight sets (23-25, 22-25, 14-25). Prior to the match, Eastern said goodbye to three seniors in Kahle Elliott, Alexandra Espinosa and Taylor Larsen.

“We came out and we knew we were going to be smaller than them physically, so we knew we had to be good servers and I think we did that with seven aces on the night. We put them in a lot of trouble with our passing and that was the number one thing we wanted to do,” said head coach Leslie Flores-Cloud.

Northern Arizona built a 9-5 lead over the Eagles when a kill from MaKenna Davis sparked a 4-0 run and tied the match at 9-all. The Lumberjacks kept their advantage and led 21-15 when another 4-0 EWU run put them within two points and forced an NAU timeout. Eastern kept fighting after the timeout, using a 3-2 run to come within one point following a kill from Kahle Elliott. An NAU service error on set point cut Eastern’s deficit to one point, but they dropped the set 25-23.

Trailing 5-3 in the second set, Eastern strung together five consecutive points to lead 8-5. Northern Arizona responded later in the set with a 5-0 run of their own to pull ahead by three, 13-10. Down four, 18-14, another Davis kill sparked a 4-0 spurt that tied the match at 18-all. After the Lumberjacks pulled back ahead 21-18, Eastern went on a 4-1 run that was capped off with a Kassandra Thomazin service ace to tie the set once more, 22-22. NAU would then call a timeout and fire off three straight points to take set two, 25-22.

The Eagles couldn’t find much offensive rhythm in the third set, hitting just .065 with nine kills and seven errors to NAU’s .500 clip and dropped the final set 25-14 and the match 3-0.

WIN-LOSS RECORDS: Eastern wraps up the 2018 season 8-22 overall with an 0-18 mark in Big Sky Conference play. Northern Arizona, who clinched a share of the regular season title this evening and a top seed in the tournament, improves to 23-8 and 15-3 in conference play.

TOP PERFORMANCES: Kahle Elliott led the way on Senior Night with 10 kills, two blocks and a career-high two service aces. MaKenna Davis followed with nine kills. Kassandra Thomazin also had two blocks to lead the team and an ace.

ShaRae Niu served up two aces and dished out 25 assists. Both Catelyn Linke and Puaoolelagi Sao had 12 digs. In her first match since Sept. 18, Alexandra Espinosa started the match and accounted for eight digs.

KEY STATS: Eastern served up seven service aces to Northern Arizona’s four. The Eagles only had one serving error while the Lumberjacks had 10. EWU hit at a .077 clip (31k-22e-117ta) to NAU’s .310 (45k-10e-113ta). Eastern was also out-blocked, 9-to-3.

Idaho def. Southern Utah 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-15)

  • Idaho clinches share of Big Sky title
  • Idaho moves to 21-9, 15-3 Big Sky; Southern Utah moves to 6-24, 5-13 Big Sky
  • Moscow, Idaho
  • Box Score

Courtesy: Idaho Athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho volleyball (21-9, 15-3) closed out the regular season in style with a sweep of Southern Utah (6-24, 5-13) on Senior Night to earn a share of the 2018 Big Sky Volleyball Regular Season Championship.  The Vandals enter the Big Sky Tournament in Greeley, Colo., as the No. 2 seed.

Reece Carman and Sarah Sharp paced the Vandals with 11 kills each, while Carman was able to add four blocks.  Kaela Straw joined them in double-figures with 10 kills.  DeVonne Ryter had a balanced night with six kills while hitting .625, to go along with six blocks.  Alycia Wodke chipped in with 25 digs and Haylee Mathis added 36 assists.

The Vandals controlled the first set early, but didn’t pull away until a 5-0 run midway through the set gave them an 18-9 advantage.  Idaho would cruise to the 25-18 victory in the set.

The second was much of the same, with Idaho taking a 7-0 lead before Southern Utah was able to score.  The Vandals kept the pressure on, taking the set 25-17.

Once again, the Vandals jumped out to a big lead in the third and maintained throughout, taking the set 25-15.

The Big Sky Tournament gets underway on Thursday, with the No. 2 Vandals taking on the No. 7 Grizzlies of Montana in the opening match.

Courtesy: Southern Utah Athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho — The Southern Utah University volleyball team played their last game of the 2018 season on Saturday night as they faced University of Idaho. The Vandals took the match 3-0, eliminating the Thunderbirds from the Big Sky Conference tournament next week.

Miranda Canez led the offense in kills with eight, hitting .538, followed by Katie Montgomery who had six kills for the evening and two blocks. Emma Mangum also totaled eight kills and added in a career high number of service aces with three. Libero Miahna Waters had 11 digs. Alexis Averett tallied 28 assists.

“As a team we are not too happy with how we performed,” head coach Pete Hoyer said. “Take nothing away from Idaho because they are a great team and will probably do quite well in the tournament…We just could not connect like we had hoped to and unfortunately, at this level, you can’t win games against teams like that if you have an off night.”

Outside hitter Janet Kalaniuvalu was the first to put away a kill for the Thunderbirds in the first set of the match at 4-2. The Vandals then went on an early 6-1 scoring run putting themselves up by six at 11-5. SUU fought back by executing a 7-1 run led by Montgomery who had three kills in the scoring sequence allowing the Thunderbirds to come within three at 19-16. The Thunderbirds scored two more kills before the Vandals took the set 25-18.

Opening up the second set the Vandals put up seven points before the Thunderbirds got on the scoreboard. Two kills from Canez and two services aces from Mangum gave a late push allowing an SUU 6-1 scoring run to come within seven at 22-15. Despite comeback effort by the Thunderbirds the Vandals took the set 25-17.

“Our middles played outstanding offensively,” Hoyer said. “We were so out of system that we couldn’t get the ball to them as much as we would have liked to, which is unfortunate.”

A Vandal service error opened the third set giving the Thunderbirds possession. SUU wasn’t able to capitalize as the Vandals immediately earned a side-out after a kill from Carmen Reece. The Vandals used the side-out to carry them on a 6-0 scoring run. After a kill from Montgomery the Thunderbirds narrowed the Vandals lead down to three at 13-10. The Vandals ran away with the set earning them a set win 25-15 which gave them the match 3-0.

The Thunderbirds ended the season 6-24 overall, 5-13 in Big Sky play.

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