Volleyball – O’Connell’s milestone night helps lead NSU to 3-1 win at New Orleans

9_2 Caiti O'Connell (1)

Caiti O’Connell delivers a kill earlier this season. O’Connell collected her 1,000th career kill Thursday night in a win at New Orleans. Credit: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services.

NEW ORLEANS – For the second straight match, Northwestern State set a season high in hitting percentage.

For the second straight match, Northwestern State came away victorious. NSU responded after dropping a tight first set to capture the next three and take a 3-1 Southland Conference victory against New Orleans here Thursday night.

At the center of NSU’s offensive efficiency (.364 hitting percentage) was a vintage performance by senior Caiti O’Connell, whose season-best night led her to a career milestone.

O’Connell tied NSU’s season high with 16 kills and became the seventh Northwestern State player to cross the 1,000-kill plateau in a career.

The milestone kill came in the third set and ignited a 7-0 Northwestern State run that gave NSU (5-17, 3-6) control of the pivotal set.

O’Connell had plenty of help from fellow outside hitter Lauren Agan.

Agan crushed 15 kills against just two errors, hitting a robust .371 on 35 total attempts. Agan also chipped in from the service line, collecting three of Northwestern State’s eight aces.

Bailey Martin contributed four aces to set a career high in that category.

After New Orleans (11-10, 2-4) took the first set 25-23, Northwestern State played much better defense in the final three sets.

UNO’s hitting percentage declined in each successive set, culminating in an .030 mark in the final set. NSU put up 11 total blocks as it claimed the final three sets, 25-18, 25-17 and 25-16.

Glynna Johnson led the NSU block, tallying six total blocks (three solo, three assists) while Amanda Kunz chipped in five total blocks along with nine kills.

Martin led the back row with 14 digs while Channing Burleson contributed a balanced match of eight kills and nine digs.

After NSU used a 7-0 run to take control of the third set, it turned to a defensive-fueled surge in the fourth set to make the difference.

Three straight blocks sparked a 9-1 rally that turned a three-point deficit into a 16-11 lead. After UNO cut the lead to 18-14, NSU responded with a 7-2 blitz to end the set and capture its first road win and first back-to-back victories of the season.

Northwestern State will try to extend its winning streak to three games when it makes a short trip to Hammond on Saturday to face Southeastern Louisiana. First serve is set for 2 p.m.