Tailgating for high school seniors to be held Thursday


Northwestern State University’s Office of University Recruiting will sponsor a Whiteout Tailgate party for high school seniors Thursday, Sept. 3 from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p. m. near the Athletic Fieldhouse. Admission is free for high school seniors and their families.

City Bank and Trust Company of Natchitoches will provide food. The Office of University Recruiting will have free snow cones and Northwestern State giveaways.

Tickets to the Northwestern State-Southeastern Louisiana game will be available at a group rate of $5 for high school seniors and their families. Demon fans are encouraged to wear white for Thursday’s game as part of the annual Whiteout.

To RSVP, go to recruiting.nsula.edu.

Volleyball — NSU hosts UL Lafayette in rare early-season home match


Tuesday night holds a couple of firsts for the Northwestern State volleyball team.

When NSU hosts UL Lafayette at 7 p.m., it marks the first home match for coach Sean Kiracofe and the earliest home match for Northwestern State since 2009.

A year ago, NSU did not play a home match until Oct. 2 -15 matches into the season. This year, its home debut comes in match No. 4.

“They have definitely had a great home-court advantage here in the past, and we’re looking to continue that,” Kiracofe said. “It’s nice to play at home before you open conference. It’s nice to get used to the normal gameday experience.”

Northwestern State (1-2) opened the season with a win against Tennessee State before dropping matches to Oral Roberts and Ole Miss at the Magnolia Invitational.

Meanwhile, UL Lafayette (0-3) dropped all three matches in the Texas Tech Invitational, being swept by Houston, Texas Tech and Utah State.

There is familiarity between the state rivals as they have met in two of the past four seasons. Each team has grabbed a 3-1 home victory in that stretch.

The Cajuns took the victory last season when the rivals met in UL Lafayette’s Sawyer Camillo Classic.

“We kind of know each other off the court,” said Glynna Johnson, an all-tournament selection at the Sawyer Camillo Classic. “It’s fun.”

The Cajuns had a key veteran corps depart at the end of 2014 and are feeling their way through the early season.

NSU finds itself in a similar situation, one in which four freshmen made their debuts during the Magnolia Invitational.

“We’re both learning each others’ teams and trying to find a rotation,” Johnson said. “There are going to be a lot of new things, and we’ll probably have some weird plays go on, but at least it’s on both sides.”

With an influx of new talent on both sides, the results from the opening weekend were somewhat expected.

“They played a tough first weekend,” Kiracofe said. “They had glimpses of good volleyball and struggled at times. They’re going to be excited for an in-state rival. It should be a good match.”

All-tournament selection Lauren Agan paced Northwestern State in the opening weekend, delivering 32 kills across three matches.

It was the second all-tournament selection of Agan’s career as she was named all-tournament at last season’s North Texas Invitational.

“She’s a little bit of an unknown going into the first matchups we have,” Kiracofe said. “As she starts to put up those numbers, people will game plan around her, and she’ll gain a little more attention from the block. Then it’s a matter of staying consistent in what you’re doing. If someone takes away your best shot, you have to be able to adjust and be smart. She showed glimpses of that this weekend.”

Following Tuesday’s match, Northwestern State begins a three-week, nine-match road trip with three matches at the Bama Bash tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Football – Demons’ Cook itching for Thursday opener

Paxton Cook

Paxton Cook didn’t get his undergraduate degree in history but he takes note of it.

Thursday evening when Cook, who graduated magna cum laude this summer, and his Northwestern State football teammates take the field at Turpin Stadium, the Demons will wear white helmets for the first time in 14 years.

It’s the second annual White Out Game for NSU, adding the new white headgear to a new set of white uniforms that typically are worn for road games.  The Demons pulled on their new hats for the first time Sunday and had them on again Monday afternoon as coach Jay Thomas sent them through a two-hour workout getting ready for 19th-ranked, two-time defending Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana.

“Like Coach T says, you look good, you feel good, and you’re going to play good,” said Cook, who is taking 12 hours this fall and preparing for physical therapy school. “Hopefully it brings us a little swagger, and a little good luck. You look back and that Demon 2001 team was pretty good in those white helmets.”

Led by LSU transfer Craig Nall at quarterback and future Pro Bowler Terrence McGee in the secondary and on returns, the 2001 Demons made a run into the FCS playoffs.

Cook, who graduated this summer with a 3.73 grade point average in health and exercise science, knows enough Demon history to see some parallels. There’s a 50-50 chance NSU will start a transfer quarterback, two (Stephen Rivers, Joel Blumenthal) competing for the job with Demon veterans J.D. Almond and Daniel Hazlewood. Last year’s AP All-America all-purpose player Ed Eagan, a senior receiver and returner, offers explosiveness reminiscent of McGee’s versatility.

The matchup against SLU is especially appealing for Cook, a 5-9, 220-pound starting middle linebacker who has lettered three times since leaving Baton Rouge-Parkview Baptist. The grind of preseason camp is done and the adrenaline is rapidly rising.

“It’s been a couple weeks since we started gearing up toward them. Thursday can’t get here soon enough,” he said. “They’re a very proven team. They have a lot of athletes and a winning culture now, and that’s something we have to counter by going out and answering their intensity with our own, and then some.”

Enhancements to the game day scene around and in Turpin Stadium are evident, with fresh paint, a new north endzone staircase down from the Presidential Tailgating Party hosted by new NSU leader Dr. Jim Henderson, and other improvements and initiatives including a new student tailgating area bordering the southeast corner of the stadium.

“We’re excited to see the changes going out at and around the stadium, as we speak,” said Cook. “I think the fans Thursday night will see a transformed stadium, and a transformed team, one that is very eager to take care of business Thursday and the rest of the season.

“The camaraderie on our team this year is better than it’s ever been. These guys are willing to fight for the guy next to them, and in the fourth quarter that’s going to be a factor,” he said. “We’ve paid attention to the details, and when Thursday comes, we’ll free our minds, free our feet, and play fast.”

Cook hopes the Purple Swarm defense will replicate last year’s production, when it ranked fifth nationally by forcing 30 turnovers. NSU will have eight new starters trying to slow the Lions.

“The biggest things we will rely on are our heart, and our speed. I think that will bring turnovers our way,” said Cook. “We have to tackle well. This will be the first time we tackle somebody in a different jersey and I think it will set a tone for the entire season, the way we tackle Thursday night.”

The Demons will go through a 2:30 practice Tuesday putting on the final touches of the game plans for the 6 p.m. Thursday game against SLU, the first conference opener pitting Southland foes in a season opening game since 1992.

HMTCA students honored

Rachel McKenna Opbroek

Rachel McKenna Opbroek

Northwestern State University students Rachel McKenna Opbroek of Shreveport and K’Una Woods of Alexandria were named recipients of scholarships awarded by the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation.  The two are seeking degree in NSU’s hospitality management, tourism and culinary arts program and were recognized at the 2015 Five Star Futures Gala on Aug. 8 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. Opbroek is an entering freshman majoring in HMT who completed the Louisiana Restaurant Association ProStart program while a student at Caddo Magnet High School.

K’Una Woods

K’Una Woods

LRAEF supports the educational efforts of students on a path to a career in the culinary or hospitality industry and will award $70,000 to 33 students as part of the 2015 scholarship cycle. Scholarship awards are merit-based and presented to full-time students seeking a career in the restaurant, food service, tourism or hospitality industry.  LRAEF Program Manager Jennifer Jeansonne is a Natchitoches native and NSU alumna.

“Thank you to Jennifer Jeansonne, program manager, with Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation for her seeing the potential in our students,” said Landon Amberg, assistant professor in NSU’s HMT program.  “Ke’Una and Rachel are great choices by the LRAEF for scholarships.  They are representing the Northwestern State University HMT program for the first time as LRAEF scholarship recipients since the program was established in 1994.”

The LRAEF non-profit organization founded in 1995 to enhance the industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. He LRAEF Scholarship Fund was created to provide an opportunity to further educate culinary/hospitality students, industry employees and educators by giving financial support via scholarship funds with hopes that the recipients select the culinary and/or hospitality fields as a career choice or continue to work in the industry.

This fund allows recipients access to post secondary education in the culinary and/or hospitality fields or special certificate programs for educators or industry professionals. The scholarships are awarded for one time financial assistance.  The LRAEF Board of Directors, through its Scholarship Fund, has awarded over $270,000 in scholarships to Louisiana students to further their post-secondary culinary educations.

NSU’s HMT program is housed under the university’s School of Business in the College of Business and Technology.  For information on programming, e-mail Amberg at ambergl@nsula.edu.

All-American Eagan eager to learn NSU’s QB pick for Thursday opener

Northwestern State receiver Ed Eagan

Northwestern State receiver Ed Eagan

Northwestern State All-American receiver and return specialist Ed Eagan admits like everybody else, he’s eager to see who the Demons start at quarterback in their Thursday evening season opener at Turpin Stadium against Southeastern Louisiana.

Eagan has a vested interest. With 119 grabs, he’s nine catches away from becoming the Demons’ career receptions leader, and 740 yards from the career receiving yardage school record.

But he doesn’t think about that, or get worked up about starting the season against SLU, the two-time defending conference champ located an hour’s drive from his New Orleans hometown.

“No, I don’t. It’s a team effort. They have some great players, especially in the secondary, so it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m hoping we come together as a team and that’s how you win,” said the Holy Cross High School product, who has piled up his career receiving totals in just two seasons after playing cornerback as a true freshman.

Eagan’s production at receiver to date has been with 2014 senior quarterback Zach Adkins. Now he’ll count on getting throws from senior transfer Stephen Rivers, junior two-year letterman Daniel “Bear” Hazlewood, or sophomores J.D. Almond or Joel Blumenthal.

Demons’ coach Jay Thomas said he’ll likely set the quarterback rotation when the team resumes practice Sunday afternoon, although he will probably not announce it prior to NSU’s first offensive series following the 6 p.m. kickoff Thursday. All four players will continue to get repetitions in practice, and Thomas said all four could play.

That’s fine with Eagan, who is pleased at the progress he’s seen since the Demons reported for preseason camp Aug. 4.

“We’ve gotten a lot accomplished. All the quarterbacks have worked with the playbook and we’ve all gotten a lot done, gotten our timing down,” he said. “There’s still a lot to learn, but we’ve come a long way.”

While fans and coaches analyze the attributes of each quarterback, Eagan can also add some perspective away from the field.

“They’re all pretty funny, actually. They all have a good sense of humor, always joking, until it’s time to focus in on football and then they compete,” he said.

“Stephen’s pretty good at FIFA, a video game we like to play. We all joke around about FIFA, and I have to give him that. Bear has a lot of skills. He’s good at basketball. He thinks he could play here … they have some good athletes out there.”

Blumenthal, a mid-year transfer from Butler County (Kan.) Community College, is Eagan’s roommate.

“Joel is a lot like me, actually. He likes to focus in, doesn’t do anything crazy. We just hang out and when it’s time for football, go to work,” said Eagan.

Blumenthal’s blazing speed – he ran on an Oklahoma state champion 4×100 meter relay team at Deer Creek High School in Edmond, and his 40-yard dash time ranges between 4.3 and 4.4 – is eye-catching and explosive. It’s also the source of roommate rivalry.

“In the spring he had me by a step, but this summer I’ve been grinding really hard, and he’d let you know now that I’m a little faster now,” said Eagan, with a slow grin.

Soccer — NSU attempting to build on success at Jackson State on Sunday

PHOTO CUTLINE: NSU junior defender Patry Carrion (8) clears a ball in the season-opener against LSU-Alexandria on Aug. 21. PHOTO: Gary Hardamon

PHOTO CUTLINE: NSU junior defender Patry Carrion (8) clears a ball in the season-opener against LSU-Alexandria on Aug. 21.
PHOTO: Gary Hardamon

JACKSON, Miss. – Northwestern State soccer coach George Van Linder says he has a new problem to address in his program after the Lady Demons tied LSU 1-1 on Tuesday.

Van Linder must teach his team how to deal with success, and that starts with Sunday’s road trip to Jackson State for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

NSU (1-1-1) will be facing one of the best programs in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the Lady Tigers, who beat LSU-Alexandria 3-1 in its last match to improve to 1-1-1. The Lady Demons topped LSU-A 4-1 in the opener.

“We haven’t had to worry about handling (success) and to build on it, so that’s a great problem to have,” Van Linder said. “Our players have the ability to do big things against big-time programs.

“I think that the coaches believed it for a while, but the players are believing that more and more. We’re talking about our legacy and what we want to do, and we have to approach every game like its LSU or Texas A&M.”

The Lady Demons held the now-No. 4 Aggies to a scoreless final 60 minutes in a 3-0 loss.

Jackson State has a notable result on its resume as well, knotting Southern Miss 1-1 after getting drubbed by the Golden Eagles 5-0 in 2014.

NSU freshman Kayleigh Phillips is third in the Southland Conference with five points (two goals, one assist), including the game-tying goal against LSU to send it to overtime in the 83rd minute.

Phillips is the second-best freshman statistically, trailing Lamar’s Jordan Mulnix (six points). Senior Cassandra Briscoe has taken the most shots (six) and shots on goal (three) on the team.

The goalkeeper position has turned from a battle to more of a partnership.

Senior Brooke Bourbonais has started the first half of all three games, while sophomore Alex Latham played the second half and overtimes this season.

Both keepers have scoreless halves against Southeastern Conference opponents. Bourbonais held LSU scoreless in the first half, and Latham’s perfect half came in the second session against Texas A&M

“We think we have the best tandem of keepers in the conference,” Van Linder said.

For Jackson State, Jalana Ellis and Jessica Blair recorded their first goals of the season in the 3-1 win against LSU-A.

NSU is playing its third straight road game with trips to ULM on Friday and UL Lafayette on Sunday before returning home to face Alcorn State on Sept. 8.

NSU suffers first loss of season, 3-1 to Oral Roberts


OXFORD, Miss. – For two sets, the Northwestern State volleyball team looked like it would follow the script set forth in a season-opening win against Tennessee State.

Oral Roberts, however, had other ideas. After splitting the first two sets with the Golden Eagles, Northwestern State dropped the final two and suffered its first loss of the year, falling 3-1 to Oral Roberts on Saturday in the Magnolia Invitational hosted by Ole Miss.

After dropping the first set, 25-12, NSU (1-1) put together its best offensive set of the match, hitting .344 and scoring a 25-20 victory that evened things at one set each.

Lauren Agan led the way offensively with six kills in the set, while NSU’s defense limited ORU (1-1) to a .079 hitting percentage.

Oral Roberts turned things around in the third and fourth sets, holding NSU to a .000 hitting percentage in each of the final two sets en route to clinching the win with 25-13 and 25-14 decisions.

“We struggled with ball control in some specific areas, which gives us great information to work with as a coaching staff for practice next week,” first-year head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We are still learning as a team how to make in-match adjustments and to consistently execute them.

“Set two shows how we can play when we execute those adjustments, but consistency is something that will come with time.”

NSU took control of the second set after a timeout. Trailing 12-9 before the timeout, Northwestern State responded with an 8-1 run out of the break, highlighted by a pair of Glynna Johnson kills and a tandem block by Johnson and Reagan Rogers.

NSU never trailed by less than three the rest of the set, closing it out with consecutive kills from Caiti O’Connell and Rogers.

Agan paced the NSU offense with 12 kills, while Bailey Martin’s 15 digs led the NSU defense.

Laura Milos delivered 23 kills and had a .444 hitting percentage to lead Oral Roberts.

Northwestern State concludes play in the Magnolia Invitational tonight at 7:30 when it faces host Ole Miss in a match that will be televised on SEC Network Plus.

NSU Service Day

Service Day

More than 150 Northwestern State University student volunteers participated in the 1 of 7 Kickoff, a day of service in which students dedicate themselves to giving back to the community. Four separated groups worked at Beau Jardin in downtown Natchitoches, Hope for Paws animal rescue organization, historic St. Augustine Catholic Church near Melrose and the Cane River Food Pantry. 1 of 7 a non-profit organization initiated by an NSU alumnus to encourage students to spend one day per week engaged in volunteer work or service to others.

NSU opens Kiracofe era with 3-1 win against Tennessee State

Amanda Kunz

OXFORD, Miss. – The Sean Kiracofe era of Northwestern State volleyball got off to a smashing start Friday.

After dropping the first set to Tennessee State, NSU rallied to capture the next three and grab a 3-1 season-opening victory at the Magnolia Invitational hosted by Ole Miss. NSU dropped the first set, 25-19, before rattling off a 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 finish to the match.

“It was great for us,” Kiracofe said. “It was great to get a win under our belts with a nice reminder that it’s not going to be easy in any of the matches. Losing the first set was a great reminder of that. They did just what I wanted with adjustments and a change in mentality. They calmed themselves down like they have all fall camp.

NSU (1-0) turned in a balanced performance offensively and defensively.

Lauren Agan and Amanda Kunz led the offense with 11 kills each, while freshman Channing Burleson delivered 10 in her collegiate debut.

Agan chipped in 11 digs for a double-double, while Bailey Martin led the way with 12 digs. Freshman setter Kathryn Wristen delivered a double-double of 21 assists and 10 digs in her first career appearance.

“(Wristen) did a great job,” Kiracofe said. “Honestly, she struggled in the first set and into the second set. She was able to calm down and put her attackers in position to do their jobs. When they started putting the ball down, she settled down and ran the offense.

“As a freshman, it is expected that she will struggle at the beginning. I credit (assistant coach) Alicia (Roth) with helping her calm down. After that, she did a good job of running the offense.”

The NSU offense became more efficient in the second and third sets, highlighted by a .571 hitting percentage in the third.

Kunz led the way in that pivotal set, connecting on six kills in seven attempts. Kunz had three kills late in the set to stave off a Tennessee State run and put NSU in control of the match.

“Amanda was fantastic,” Kiracofe said. “She was smart with her shots. She hit some hard ones. She hit some deep angles. She scored off a number of different sets. She scored across the net and in different ways.”

After allowing Tennessee State’s Arijana Anderson and Chloe Watson to combine for seven first-set kills, NSU tweaked its defense and held the duo to 11 kills in the final three sets. Anderson and Watson each finished with nine kills in the match.

Much like Wristen did individually, NSU seemed to rid itself of some nervous energy early in the match.

“It came down to handling the ball,” Kiracofe said. “We were playing a lot of balls that should have been unforced errors. We weren’t putting them in position to give us free points. We were letting them off the hook. We stopped playing those balls and started handling the ball better. It allowed us to settle down and run our offense.

“We did a few things on defense to funnel where we wanted them to attack, and then Bailey, Channing, Lauren and Kathryn did a great job of playing defense.”

Northwestern State concludes play in the Magnolia Invitational with a pair of matches Saturday. NSU starts early, facing former Southland Conference rival Oral Roberts at 9 a.m. and wraps up play by facing host Ole Miss at 7:30 p.m. The match against Ole Miss will be available on SEC Network Plus, a mobile app developed by the SEC and ESPN.