- Staff Reporter
- Photo credit: Gary Hardaman
NATCHITOCHES – The last month of play has prepared Northwestern State volleyball for this week.
On Thursday, the Lady Demons (8-6) open Southland conference play as Sam Houston State (4-8) visits Prather Coliseum for a 6:30 p.m. start.
Admission to Thursday’s match is free as are all home regular-season volleyball matches courtesy of the Louisiana Army National Guard. Streaming video of the match will be available at www.nsudemons.com/watch.
A longer, more jam-packed non-conference schedule was an intentional choice by fifth-year head coach Sean Kiracofe to give his team more chances to familiarize themselves with each other and find their roles on the floor. And according to Kiracofe, the last month of matches has been exactly what he’d hoped for.
“We have not had a single bad loss and we’ve had some good wins,” Kiracofe said. “We’ve put ourselves in some tough situations that we can learn from and they’re going to pay off in conference when get in those tight matches.
“I got everything out of the preseason that I wanted. We’re 8-6 and could easily be 10-4. I can’t look at those losses and say they were bad losses. We were in those matches and truly feel that if we could have gotten to five, we had a great chance at winning those matches. There was some struggle, there was a lot of success and I think we got a lot out of it.”
In their final non-conference week of the season, NSU went 2-1 with wins against Prairie View A&M and Brown. Their last match, against the Bears, proved to be the most balanced and complete performance of the season. Not surprisingly ending in a 3-0 sweep for the Lady Demons.
“It’s been something that we’ve been trying to do all year,” Kiracofe said. “Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes Hannah (Brister) or Alexis (Warren) are having a great match and completely understandable why the setters are feeding them the ball.
“To be successful down the road we’ve got to be able to spread the ball out. It really just came down to a conversation of this is what we want to do, not that we haven’t had that conversation before, but it just clicked against Brown.”
Brister continues to dominate offensively, ranking in the top 20 nationally in four categories – total kills (198), kills per set (4.83), points per set (5.2), and attacks per set (12.49). With just two more, she will become the fastest player to reach 200 kills in a season, doing so in 14 matches, for the Lady Demons since Stacey DiFrancesco reached the number in 13 matches in 2011.
The Lady Demons play their first two conference matches of the year on their home court for the first time since 2015 beginning with Sam Houston on Thursday night.
The Bearkats enter the SLC opener after a 1-2 weekend in San Marcos, Texas with losses to George Washington (3-1) and Texas State (3-0). Elise Smith was named to the all-tournament team, finishing the weekend with 13 total blocks and eight kills.
Sam Houston has four players with more than 100 kills on the season, led by junior Ashley Lewis’ 163 and 3.40 kill per set average.
Both the Lady Demons and Bearkats rank in the top half of almost every category in the Southland to this point, which sets up another potential thriller between the teams to start SLC play.
“Sam Houston is going to be an entirely new team,” Kiracofe said. “They lost a lot of seniors and have a new look in a 6-2. Nothing is really going to be familiar, at least from past years, but we know that every time we go out there it’s an entertaining match and it’s going to be a back and forth fight. Someone walks out of there feeling pretty happy they survived with a win.
Stay connected to NSU volleyball by following @NSUDemonsVB on Twitter and Instagram or by liking Northwestern State volleyball on Facebook.
Article sourced from provided press release.