HOUSTON – Following an emotional loss at the hands of Sam Houston on Thursday night, Northwestern State turns its attention to another, now even more crucial late season match with Houston Baptist on Saturday.
A stout defense can give even the most prolific offense fits over the course of a game or match. That was the case, for the second time this season, for the Lady Demons (18-9, 10-3 SLC) in their matchup with Sam Houston.
NSU’s two lowest hitting percentages of the season in Southland Conference play have come against the Bearkats. Swinging a season low .043 in their first meeting and .136 in Thursday’s contest. The second loss to Sam Houston gives the Bearkats the head-to-head tiebreaker should both teams finish the season with the same conference record, which they both currently have at 10-3. The teams are sitting at second in the conference entering Saturday’s matches.
But the Lady Demons have shown time and time again this year that their responses after tough matches makes them a team no one wants to face the next time out.
“For better or for worse, history is repeating itself with the matches this weekend,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “There definitely is more wear and tear on bodies at this point in the season, but that goes for every team. We have done a great job of always responding well after difficult situations, so I don’t expect anything different tomorrow.”
NSU embarked on an eight-match winning streak following the conference-opening loss to Sam Houston. The same teams NSU faces across the next three contests are the same teams in the same order they saw them at the beginning of the long streak.
The Lady Demons responded nicely the first go around to beat Houston Baptist (15-13, 7-6 SLC) in a 3-1 decision on September 28 in Prather Coliseum. Since that match the Huskies have played just above .500 volleyball with a 6-5 record.
HBU also enters Saturday’s rematch after a tough five-set loss on Thursday. The Huskies took the first two sets in the match with Central Arkansas before the Sugar Bears swept the last three.
The Huskies bring in one of the best defensive units in the conference averaging 17.5 digs per set and holding opponents to a .179 hitting percentage, second best in each category behind Stephen F. Austin. Ebonie Ballesteros leads their efforts at the net with a 1.11 block per set average and all-around player Mikayla Vivens tops their dig and kill totals with more than 300 of each.