What once was is now here again for Northwestern State volleyball.
After a postponed – and shortened – 2020 season, the Lady Demons took another step in the return to normalcy with the release of a full 2021 fall schedule on Thursday.
The slate that features four weekend tournaments, a pair of non-conference home battles and 14 Southland Conference matches begins in earnest on the final weekend of August and runs through the end of November, culminating in the SLC Tournament.
“Being a student-athlete isn’t easy, and the competition season can be chaotic and a grind, but we love it,” said Sean Kiracofe, entering his seventh year as the Lady Demons’ head coach. “Being able to play in the spring was nice but many things that make being part of a team sport and what we love were understandably taken away. To see everything returning on the horizon is like the anticipation of Christmas morning.”
The Lady Demons will be the second NSU team (soccer) to return to action in the fall opening the season in New Orleans at the Tulane Invite on Aug. 27. After matches against the Green Wave, Cal and Alabama A&M, the Lady Demons return to Prather Coliseum for the first home fall sporting event at NSU since Nov. 21, 2019.
The first of two non-conference home matches features the Lady Demons against rival ULM on Aug. 31 with a match against Jackson State two weeks later on Sept. 14. NSU makes just one non-conference midweek road trip during the season, visiting Grambling on Sept. 8.
Weekend tournaments throughout the month of September take NSU to Ole Miss (Sept. 3-4), now former SLC foe Lamar (Sept. 10-11) and UT Arlington (Sept. 17-18). A solid mix of competition during the first month of the season remains a vital component for Kiracofe in the construction of the schedule. A still young team takes the court for the Lady Demons this season, the first month key in their development as a team.
“I really like the schedule we put together,” Kiracofe said. “The 2021 season was always going to be a new look for us after having some long-time starters graduate, but COVID rushed us into that new look short-handed. We will still be young, so the preseason will be very important for us.
“We have the pieces now with a full roster, but it always takes time to see how they best fit together. A full preseason gives us time to experiment and play with the options we have on this roster to showcase individual talent. That is such a gift that I won’t be taking for granted and gives us a great chance to figure out how we’re going to attack the Southland.”
The new-look conference schedule begins Sept. 25 for the Lady Demons as they host Southeastern Louisiana, in the first of 14 league battles. The conference slate features seven home-and-home matchups against the current iteration of the Southland.
The six other NSU home matches are against Houston Baptist (Oct. 7), McNeese (Oct. 9), New Orleans (Oct. 21), Incarnate Word (Nov. 4), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 6) and Nicholls (Nov. 13).
Perhaps the toughest stretch for the Purple and White starts in the middle of October with four road matches out of five total to end the month, beginning Oct. 14 at New Orleans.
“The Southland has always been a good volleyball conference throughout the years and throughout its changes,” Kiracofe said. “The parity this season will be enhanced with the departures, but despite looking at the final standings for the last few years I think that’s always been there.
“As the returning champion Corpus will be the team to beat, but now they’ll be in a new position of not being able to share that spotlight with any other top teams. Winning isn’t easy but staying on top is harder, so it will be interesting to see if this new focus on them will have an effect.”
The conference tournament is set for Nov. 18-21 at the University Center in Hammond.
Photo/Graphic: Chris Reich (NSU Photographic Services)/Brad Welborn