NATCHITOCHES – Playing with a little extra motivation on senior day, Northwestern State looked like the team that won eight straight just a couple weeks ago in the 3-1 regular season finale win on Saturday afternoon.
“It was kind of back to form us to be able to withstand some difficult situations and come back and keep playing as a team,” coach Sean Kiracofe said. “It was knowing what we can do well and showing a different look here and there to get back on track and we did a great job of that.”
The Lady Demons (19-11, 11-5 SLC) closed the regular season with their best overall and Southland Conference records under Kiracofe, poised for their first 20-win season since 2013 should they win their first-round tournament match next week.
NSU used the formula it had during the meat of the conference schedule to take the match. Set one was about scouting Incarnate Word, and after a lull in the second, dominant play to win the third and fourth sets sealing the win.
The Cardinals used a 4-0 run midway through the first set to tie things at 16, but the Lady Demons regained control quickly with a 6-2 run that stonewalled any more building UIW momentum.
Kills from Hannah Brister and Addison McDermott, and an ace from Kourtney Seaton, made it a 22-18 set, giving NSU enough room to trade points the rest of the way until Darria Williams sealed things at 25-22.
Set two was a near reverse copy of the first, with UIW using a 5-1 run to hold an 18-12 lead late in the frame. The six-point advantage held the rest of the set as the teams traded point for point until the 25-19 winner from UIW’s Carissa McGarity.
The extended timeout between sets two and three played right into the Demons favor, evidenced by the 13-3 start to the third set. Four quick points on the opening serve of Cayman Sutton, then six more moments later during Megan Lohmiller’s serve rotation put NSU in total control of the pivotal set.
The NSU block was the difference, with Seaton, Skylar Besch, and Alexis Warren combining for eight block assists in the third set alone as the offense provided plenty of support on 13 kills, making the 25-15 final not as close as it would indicate.
UIW responded well after the third and kept the fourth from getting away from them, limiting their own errors while NSU continued to pound away at the ball. A dramatic 4-0 run with the match tied at 13, sparked an already enthused Lady Demon team.
A point reversal that gave a kill to Sutton was followed by the best rally of the match where both sides scrambled to get touches on the ball, with the defenses saving multiple points, until Seaton slammed the winner off a set from Williams to cap the play.
The Cardinals made a late push to get within three, but two kills from McDermott and Brister and a UIW error ended the match at 25-19.
“Getting the win going into the tournament is always great,” Kiracofe said. “And you always want to win on senior day because it’s special for them. For them to step up and play the way they did is to be expected but also something that you want for them to be able to remember this day and feel really good about it.”
During the match Warren earned her 1,000th career kill, making her the fourth player in NSU history with 1,000 career kills and digs.
The Lady Demons play their next match in Conway, Arkansas on Friday in the first round of the conference tournament. NSU enters the tournament as one of the top contenders to take home the title on Sunday afternoon.
Stay connected to NSU volleyball by following @NSUDemonsVB on Twitter and Instagram or by liking Northwestern State volleyball on Facebook.
Cutline: NSU’s Alexis Warren becomes the fourth player in program history to record 1,000 career digs and kills.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services