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

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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.

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