NATCHITOHCES – A strong start faded as the match wore on for Northwestern State with mounting frustration contributing to the 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 18-25) loss to UIW on Saturday afternoon.
“Lots of mixed emotions after this one,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We changed to a 5-1 which allows us to do some things out of the back row and an element that we’ve been able to have the past five seasons. We got a taste of that against HBU and again today and there were a lot of good things that came out of it.
“But mixed emotions because it was a winnable match and we did a lot of good things but our mentality changed and we cashed in our chips in the third set. That is not something that I am going to allow my program to do. The way we finished the match was unacceptable.”
The Lady Demons (2-8, 0-8) came out with a mission in the opening set, taking the first six points of the match on two Autumn Gentry aces and kills from four different players. They held the comfortable lead until a 5-0 run from UIW (3-7, 3-5) brought the set to within a point.
After tying the match a handful of serves later, NSU engineered a late 5-0 run of its own thanks to a pair of blocks from Addison McDermott and Audrey Quesnel and another from Gentry and Quesnel making it a 20-15 set. The Cardinals made a late push but a key kill from Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa gave NSU set point and Breanna Burrell found the floor three serves later giving NSU the 25-23 opening winner.
Garcia-Rosa got the Lady Demons off to another fast start in the second with two quick kills and a solo block. Making her first start of the season, the transfer from East Carolina finished with a season-best seven kills and three total blocks, adding a pair of aces along the way.
“She went out there and took advantage of an opportunity and did well offensively and defensively,” Kiracaofe said of Garcia-Rosa. “She provided, from a personality standpoint, a good spark, but let her energy slip as the sets went on because people weren’t following suit in the third and the fourth. She had a great showing in her first start so that was exciting to see.”
NSU built a five-point lead later in the set on another ace and kills from Burrell and McDermott, but UIW did not go down without a fight working its way back to even the set at 19 after two quick 3-0 outbursts.
Two kills from Burrell put the Lady Demons ahead at 22-20, but after a UIW timeout the next five points went to the Cardinals stealing the second set to even the match a one each.
NSU took another early lead in the third, going ahead 13-8 following a block from Burrell and Garcia-Rosa. It was a 12-2 UIW run moments later that was the difference in the third. Eight Cardinal kills and two blocks provided all the momentum the visitors needed to win the set and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
After NSU took early leads in the first three sets, following the frustrating end to the third for the Lady Demons, UIW jumped ahead in the fourth 5-2 eventually stretching its lead to 14-7.
The Lady Demons cut it to four later in the set with a 4-0 run but could not get any closer than that the rest of the way.
“We started out really good and then things weren’t going our way,” Kiracofe said. “Some of that was UIW cleaning some things up on their end and some of it was bad errors on our part. But you don’t just get to say I’m frustrated and check out for a second. We just need some consistency and some stubbornness to say I don’t care what’s happening or if it’s not going our way I’m going to win the next point.”
Burrell finished the match with a career-high 15 kills, reaching double figures for the second straight time, picking up her first double-double with a career-high 14 digs. McDermott matched a career best with 17 digs also picking up her first career double-double with 11 kills. Gentry dished out a career-best 37 assists, getting her fourth double-double in the past five matches with 14 digs.
NSU continues Southland Conference play next Thursday at Abilene Christian.
Cutine: Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa (middle-right) sends an attack over in Northwestern State’s 3-1 loss to UIW on Saturday.
Photo Credit: Gary Hardamon