NATCHITOCHES – Both Autumn Gentry and the Northwestern State volleyball team made quite the first impression Tuesday night.
Playing her first match in a Lady Demon uniform, Gentry became the second player in NSU program history to produce a triple-double, helping lead Northwestern State to a 3-1 (25-17, 25-17, 16-25, 25-21) victory against Louisiana Tech.
Gentry finished with 11 kills, 15 assists and 12 digs, flashing a versatile game as Northwestern State took to the court for the first time since playing at Wyoming in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship on Dec. 5, 2019.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from tonight,” said Gentry, a New Mexico State transfer who joined Flavia Bela (twice) as the only players in school history to record a triple double. “I had high hopes for myself coming back and with everything going on with COVID. I was hoping to play my best.”
Gentry and the Lady Demons (1-0) started quickly Tuesday night, winning the first two sets in their first home match since Nov. 16, 2019. In those sets, Gentry had eight kills on as many swings, setting the tone for her stunning debut.
Northwestern State built on the momentum of a 11-3 run midway through the first set by racing to a 10-1 lead on a 6-0 service run from libero Haley Hoang, who had four aces in the spurt.
As a team, NSU tallied 12 errors against eight errors. On the flip side, Louisiana Tech (0-5) tallied four service aces against nine errors.
Hoang’s effort from the service line allowed NSU to cruise to their second straight 25-17 victory to open the match and put them in position to wrap things up quickly.
“As a server, you can get the other team out of system, which helps your defense,” Hoang said. “Hopefully, they’ll give you an easy ball back and help set up your offense.”
In addition to serving effectively in the second set, Northwestern State hit a blistering .414 in the set and survived Louisiana Tech’s .350 hitting percentage.
The Lady Techsters extended the match by taking advantage of an error-laden third set from the NSU offense, which hit -.091 in the third set. Despite a starting lineup that featured just two holdovers from the 2019 season, Northwestern State found itself able to overcome adversity in the final set thanks to both ends of its experience spectrum.
Senior Darria Williams powered the Lady Demons in the final set, scoring four of NSU’s final six points of the match as part of a six-kill final set.
“I couldn’t be happier with the result,” seventh-year head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We had so many new faces out there, so many new people standing next to each other, and it was good to see them settle down and control their errors early.
“Darria had a solid match (11 kills, .346 hitting percentage). That fourth set was phenomenal. She really took off. We didn’t have a high hitting percentage overall (.184), but we were smart when we needed to be, and Darria really put it away for us. Six kills on nine attempts (in the fourth set), that’s just fantastic.”
Northwestern State returns to action Thursday when it hosts Grambling in its final non-conference match of the spring at 6:30 p.m. inside Prather Coliseum.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services