Young roster set to shine for NAU volleyball

“Trying to earn MVP, that has always been a goal of mine, but winning a conference championship is something I really want this year,” Jacobsen said. Part of that leadership comes from the lone senior on the team in Harris. She was named to back-to-back Big Sky All-Conference First Teams in 2018 and 2019. Even though she missed 11 games in the 2019-20 campaign, she is looking to come back stronger than ever, which may be difficult with the success she attained last season. She finished second on the team in hitting efficiency last season and is seventh all-time in NAU volleyball history in hitting efficiency at 30.3%. Even though Harris is the oldest on the team, she likes to view herself more as the “fun aunt” rather than the mom of the group. Murphy has only one losing season in his NAU tenure that began in 2013, but that team still went 9-7 in conference play during the 2017 season. Murphy has a 69.4% winning clip through seven years at NAU, while winning 73% of the time in conference games. The Lumberjacks look to continue their strong seasons under Murphy while only playing in conference games. “I like what I’m seeing in the gym,” Murphy said. “We are getting better and better every day.” The expectation for this team is a championship. They do have a leg up on some of the competition as they were able to practice last semester, while other teams couldn’t. Murphy said he hopes to lead them to another Big Sky Championship as they lost in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament last season. He has led them to two conference championships throughout his NAU tenure. Murphy can lead the Lumberjacks to the Big Dance for a third time with a conference title. The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship will take place in April with the national semifinals and national championship game scheduled for April 22nd and April 24, respectively. There are high expectations for the season and the Lumberjacks will look to make a push for the tournament with the leadership of Harris and Jacobsen. NAU’s schedule consists of back-to-back games against their Big Sky opponents. The only conference teams they will not compete against are the University of Montana and Idaho State University due to the shortened season. The 2021 season is scheduled to begin Jan. 24 at home against California StateUniversity, Sacramento. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of the NAU volleyball team’s season as the Big Sky Conference moved all fall sports to the spring. For all NAU and Big Sky fans, spring is arriving and sports are returning. NAU volleyball has a lot to look forward to this season as they will play a 16-game, conference-exclusive schedule. With the Lumberjacks having only conference play, a sense of optimism is in the air as they finished third last season in the Big Sky with a conference record of 13-5. The Lumberjacks will host eight home games this season, which may bode well for them as they dominated at home last season, posting an 11-1 record. With modifications from the pandemic, no NAU fans will be able to attend games at the Rolle Activity Center. Fans can still watch as all Big Sky sports will be broadcast on Pluto TV. The team, however, looks very different compared to past rosters as they are a young group who lost two key players from last season. Abby Akin and Sydney Lema, two of the team’s former veteran leaders, both graduated. Lema is still with the Lumberjacks as she is now a graduate assistant for the team. They will rely on their young stars to help make a push for the postseason. Head coach Ken Murphy spoke highly of the team’s leadership despite its youth, as did senior opposite Heaven Harris. “The freshmen proved they can play with the rest of us,” Harris said. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Jacobsen, who was named to the 2019 Big Sky Volleyball All-Conference Second Team, excelled last year as she finished second on the team in total kills. Now, with a whole year of experience under her belt, she will look to take her game to the next level. Jacobsen said she wants to step into a bigger leadership role with this team. Story courtesy of The Lumberjack

Young roster set to shine for NAU volleyball