Diggin’ it: local libero sets digs record for NAU volleyball

Exactly one year ago, the Northern Arizona University volleyball team had set a new school record by getting off to a 12-0 start.  Leading the way was a local prep standout, Kelli Dallmann, from Cactus High School in Glendale.

The 5’10” outside hitter, then a junior at NAU, recorded 57 assists and 15 digs in a five-set win over Sacramento State to help break the old mark of 11 straight wins to start a season, set back in 2002.  She was named the Big Sky Player of the Week for her performance.

This year, the Lumberjacks are off to a 12-3 start.  Dallmann is still with the program, enjoying a great year as a senior.  But the spotlight has fallen on yet another local recruit who reached a record-setting milestone to play a major part in this year’s early success.

Anna Gott, a senior libero from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, posted 21 digs in a losing effort to Portland State on Thursday to become the all-time career digs leader in NAU program history.

Ironically, it was Portland State (9-7) that also beat the Jacks last year to halt their record-setting start at 12 games.  But this time the Jacks beat themselves, allowing a season-high 10 service aces by the Vikings in what head coach Craig Choate called a “flat night.”

Gott’s 16th dig Thursday night, midway through the third set, eclipsed the old record of 1,549 that was set in 2002.  By the end of the match she had run her string to 1,554.

“It’s a great honor and I’m happy for her,” said Choate after his 5’7″ libero broke the record.  “She’s worked incredibly hard to do what she’s done and that makes me happy for her.  She’s just a great kid, and that makes it even better.”

A four-year stater at Cactus High who was selected to the All-region first team in her junior and senior seasons, Gott set school records for aces in a career (186), career digs (1,817), and assists in a season (1,330).

She has started every match of her first three years as NAU’s libero and has 14 more regular-season matches left to add to her career total, and make it that much more likely that this record will stand even longer than the last.

And she didn’t take her foot off the gas after the loss, coming back last night to record 28 digs to help her Lumberjacks beat Eastern Washington, 3-1.  The Eagles returned five starters this year and had been picked in the pre-season to finish third in the conference this season, but after getting beat by NAU, they are still winless so far this season.

Dallman was back sharing the spotlight again last night, leading the Lumberjack squad with 16 kills and 13 digs.  Payton Bock, a 6’3″ freshman middle blocker from Hamilton High School in Chandler, added 11 kills and equaled her career high with nine blocks.  Sophomore setter Kalee Kirby had 50 assists.

The Lumberjacks, a pre-season pick to finish eighth in the Big Sky Conference, have pushed through a grueling early-season schedule that has had them on the road for 14 of their first 15 matches, playing against teams in eight different states.

Last night’s game against Eastern Washington was the third road match in five days – in three different states.  But the Jacks have finally returned home to get ready for a pair of matches with Montana State on Thursday.

However, before they take that sigh of relief, it should be noted that Montana State is 9-4 on the season and just knocked off Idaho State – which was unbeaten until then.

That long-awaited home-court advantage will definitely come in handy next week.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)