The Northwestern State volleyball team is coming off its most successful opening weekend since 2014.
The Lady Demons finished the Arkansas Invitational with a dramatic, five-set comeback win against Montana State and a sweep of Little Rock to end the weekend at 2-1. It is the best record in a season-opening tournament since NSU beat Missouri and Mississippi Valley State to start the 2014 campaign.
It is also a start fifth-year head coach Sean Kiracofe wants to continue this week as NSU travels to Jackson State at 6:30 Tuesday night.
“Going in, it’s easy to be at a high level from an energy and mentality standpoint of being competitive at the beginning,” Kiracofe said. “If you go out and win that first set, you should be able to maintain that and win two and three.
“It was really good to be able to see that against Little Rock, because that’s what we’re going to face at Jackson State — consistency, being on top of your game, and never thinking that the set if over until it actually is.”
The Tigers went 3-0 in their opening weekend, with wins against Delaware State, South Carolina State, and Florida A&M in the SWAC/MEAC Challenge in Montgomery, Alabama.
JSU, picked fifth in the preseason SWAC poll, returns nine players from last year’s 11-25 team, including preseason first-team All-SWAC middle blocker Marina Brito.
“It’s a very short turnaround for us from a scout standpoint,” Kiracofe said. “We have the privilege of having played them a few times recently, so we have a little idea of what to expect. But I really think it’s going to come down to consistency on our side of the net and staying at that level mentality to keep producing on a constant basis.”
Kiracofe said he was pleased with how the Lady Demons fared on the weekend, especially in the sweep of Little Rock, where they showed the most balanced effort of the young season.
NSU had four players with seven or more kills in the three-set match, with junior Hannah Brister and senior Alexis Warren each recording their second straight kill-dig, double-doubles.
“I was happy to see us come out and set a standard offensively and defensively, which we maintained throughout the match,” Kiracofe said following the match Saturday. “The matches like Montana State are the kind everyone remembers, and it’s justifiable why, but the consistency is what is going to set us up for being productive during the season.”
The Lady Demons held Little Rock to an .078 hitting percentage, while swinging better than .320 themselves. Defensively, NSU posted 56 digs, 20 more than the Trojans. It is that consistency of offensive production and defensive prowess the Lady Demons hope to continue this week.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services