ABILENE, Texas – Late rallies in both the second and third sets by Northwestern State made for exciting finishes to both frames, but it was Abilene Christian that ultimately won the day 3-0 (25-17, 29-27, 25-19) in a sweep of the Lady Demons.
“Under the circumstances with needing to put Autumn (Gentry) on the outside for the first time all season, I thought we played well,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We were able to take advantage of situations we talked about in the scout and made good plays as rallies got extended. In most cases the errors we made were fixable, and nothing you wouldn’t expect from a new lineup.”
NSU (2-9, 0-9) played even with Abilene through the first handful of points, until a 6-0 run gave it some breathing room. Kills from Audrey Quesnel and Breanna Burrell started the run which was ushered along by a pair of ACU errors. The Lady Demons built a 12-9 advantage on the heels of the early run.
The Wildcats (7-4, 6-3) didn’t let the early NSU run phase them taking control of the opening set with the ensuing 9-1 stretch putting them in the driver’s seat. NSU picked up a couple of point on another Burrell kill and a pair of ACU errors, but the Wildcats took the opener 25-17.
Pulling to within a point on a couple of different occasions in the second, the Lady Demons like they would see again late in the third, could not string together points to take the lead or close the gap. The teams traded points through the middle portion of the set with ACU holding a five-point edge.
A Ragan Ward over pass that turned into kill sparked a late 7-2 NSU run evening the set at 24. Burrell pushed the Lady Demons ahead with a kill on the next serve, but two straight from ACU turned the NSU set point into an ACU set point. Tying the set again at 26 and 27 the Lady Demons continued to battle until two straight kills ended the exciting second for the Wildcats.
The strong finish to the second bore immediate results in the third. The Lady Demons, behind back-to-back solo blocks from Quesnel took a 9-7 lead forcing an ACU timeout.
A 5-1 Wildcat run out of the break gave them the lead and a quick 3-0 burst moments later extended the margin to three. That was as close as the Lady Demons could get the rest of the way as each kill or point was met with at least one ACU point, stretching the lead to six.
Burrell and Gentry provided a pair of late kills holding off two match points, but ACU found the 25th point on a kill to seal the match. ACU’s Katelyn Mueller had four kills in the final five ACU points.
“At the end of the third they went to their senior outside (Mueller) and she was making great high hand swings that are very hard to defend,” Kiracofe said. “The small victory there is that we put them in a position where they needed their best player to win the game, and unfortunately, she came through for them.”
The Lady Demons close the road portion of the schedule on Saturday with a trip to Stephen F. Austin. First serve is set for 1 p.m.
Photo Credit: Gary Hardamon