NSU– When Northwestern State won the bid to host the 2018 Southland Conference Volleyball Tournament, symmetry with the 2014 season became inevitable.
When the Southland Conference released its preseason all-conference team Thursday, more parallels emerged.
For the first time since 2014, the Lady Demons placed multiple players on the first-team preseason all-league squad. Reigning SLC Libero of the Year Channing Burleson and outside hitter Reagan Rogers were named to the 12-player first team. They were Northwestern State’s only two selections among the 18 conference players honored by the head coaches in the conference.
“Those two played a large role in a great season last year,” fourth-year head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We had a lot of other people step up. Hannah Brister was (SLC) Freshman of the Year. Madeline Drake had a great year in the middle. Everyone else played really good roles to allow us to be consistent and not just focus on a couple of good players.”
Burleson, in her second season as NSU’s libero, recorded the third-most digs in school single-season history (573). In the past two seasons, Burleson has collected 1,145 digs, posting the Nos. 3 and 4 single-season marks in school history.
Burleson, a second-team All-Louisiana selection in 2017, likely will begin the season in the top 20 among active Division I players in total digs.
“She is just solid day in and day out,” Kiracofe said. “It can get to the point where you don’t notice it for a while because she plays at such a high level consistently. Then you pay attention for a few plays and she does amazing things out there in that position. That’s what we expect from her, and she continues to provide it consistently.”
Rogers enjoyed a breakout junior season, leading Northwestern State and the conference in total kills (427). The kill total was the second-highest in NSU single-season history. Rogers added a first-team All-Louisiana selection after her junior year.
Both Rogers and Burleson were first-team Academic All-Southland Conference selections as well.
“She came out and had a fantastic year from Day One in practice and definitely surprised a few people in the first half of conference,” Kiracofe said. “They were absolutely game-planning around her in the second half of conference, but it didn’t slow her down. She’ll see defenses focusing on her from the moment we step out on the court when conference play starts, but she’s ready for it.”
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services