NATCHITOCHES – A valiant performance in the third came too late for Northwestern State on Thursday night as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi managed a 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-23) sweep inside Prather Coliseum.
The Lady Demons (2-2, 0-2) played some of their best volleyball of the season in the third, taking a late 21-19 lead, but the experience of the Islanders (4-1, 2-1) carried them down the stretch with a 6-2 run to close out the match. Back-to-back NSU errors kickstarted the run that would ultimately end the night.
“A lot of improvement and a lot more fight than at the beginning of the match,” sixth-year head coach Sean Kiracofe said of the final set. “It was progress and it was good, but it’s hard to feel like it was with the previous two sets and coming off the match at Sam Houston.
“We wanted to get our middles involved much more and we were able to do that today. They were up and available and the setters were finding them. We picked things up defensively and we were able to make little adjustment from one point to another, just from a strategy standpoint. All that was good to see but there still needs to be a whole lot more of it.”
Two kills in the first three points of the match from Audrey Quesnel set the stage for a productive night for the middles. The 12-1 run from Corpus early in the first nearly made it a runaway but the Lady Demons rattled off five straight, including a pair of kills from another NSU middle Reagan Lee, that made it a 13-8 set.
Corpus held its five-point advantage until a late 7-0 run vaulted them to the 25-13 opening set win.
The NSU middles began to assert themselves even more in the second set, getting an early block assist from Lee with help from Darria Williams and consecutive Quesnel kills that put NSU up 11-10.
It was another long Islander run though that would turn the tide in the middle set. The 9-1 stretch turned a tight game into another near-lopsided ending. NSU closed the 19-12 gap with a five-point outburst that included kills from both Lee and Quesnel and a block that made it a 20-17 set.
The late rally ended there, and despite another kill from Lee, Corpus sprinted to the 2-0 match lead with a 4-0 run to take the second 25-18.
NSU jumped ahead early in the second and the teams traded serves and points until the set was tied at 11. A 6-2 push from the Islanders gave them a slight edge but a clutch kill from freshman Breanna Burrell followed by an ace from Haley Hoang gave the Lady Demons life.
Those points ignited an 8-2 NSU run that included four kills and another block at the net, this time from Quesnel and Williams. A service error ended the rally for the Lady Demons and all the momentum flipped to the opposite side of the net after a follow-up ball handling error tied the match at 21.
NSU was able to stave off a pair of match points thanks to a kill and solo block from Addison McDermott, but the final point would come on the next serve dropping the Lady Demons to 0-2 in Southland Conference play.
“It was progress and there was good stuff there,” Kiracofe said. “Being able to carry this over fully depends on set one and two on Saturday. I think we’ll need something to go our way to give us that validation that what we did tonight works and will work better in the next match. It should carry over and it should be a confidence builder, it’s just not the easiest thing to do right now immediately after the match.”