NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State is well aware how effective, and frustrating, a good defense can be, having been the one frustrating opponents in recent years. The Lady Demons will continue to rely on their defense as they continue to round a young offense into shape.
The next step in the formation of that offense comes on Thursday as the Lady Demons (2-3, 0-3) host an ever-improving Southeastern Louisiana team on senior night for the 2020 class.
Recognition of the three seniors – Hannah Brister, Charli Fouts and Darria Williams – will begin prior to the match at 6:30 p.m. As always there is no charge for admission to NSU home volleyball matches and fans are encouraged to wear masks and social distance while inside Prather Coliseum.
The Lady Demons were on the receiving end of a stellar defensive performance in the straight-set loss to Lamar on Tuesday night. An absurd 70 digs in three sets for the Cardinals kept the NSU offense from getting the ball to the floor with as much consistency as they would like. Consistency that a young group of attackers are still searching to find.
While the group still has work to do, freshman Breanna Burrell has begun to find her swing match-over-match. Although the kill totals haven’t been eye-popping, reaching double figures once through five matches, in the last two matches she has 14 kills with just three errors.
“Brea had a nice breakout night offensively against a big block,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said of Burrell’s performance against Lamar. “They switched into a 6-2 to get a bigger lineup at the net so there were very few easy swings. There were some swings that easily could have ended up as kills that I was really happy with because they were situations we have been working on. I’m as happy about some of the errors as I am the kills.”
The NSU defense has been the consistency so far this season with a third 20-dig match for libero Haley Hoang and the fourth match with eight or more total blocks against Lamar. They will be asked to continue that level of play against SLU (3-3, 1-2) if they plan to notch their first conference win and eighth straight against schools from the Pelican State.
“They’re a lot tougher but this has been a couple year evolution since Jeremy (White, SLU head coach) has been there,” Kiracofe said. “They do things a little bit different and it’s a different look that you don’t necessarily see all the time. And for that fact alone it can be very successful.”
The Lady Lions come into the match after dropping a five-set battle to Sam Houston on Monday. Freshman standout Kailin Newsome lead a spread-out attack with 11 kills and leads SLU with 3.88 kills per set on the young season.
Four other players have more than 30 kills on the season with three others averaging more than 2.0 kills per set.
The test for the Lady Demons will be how quickly they can adjust to what SLU does offensively. The experience-laden group a season ago excelled at the quick turnarounds, able to make adjustments with as little as a conversation at times, but something that Kiracofe is continually teaching his young squad as this season progresses.
“I would love if this was our Saturday match and we had a few more days to put it in front of the girls so it’s not a surprise,” Kiracofe said. “Seeing it in real life is different than seeing it on video. They (SLU) have done a great job the past couple of years of controlling their errors and not giving up free points to teams, now they’re earning points.”
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services