OXFORD, Miss. – A challenging trio awaits Northwestern State as it enters the second weekend of tournament play in the Ole Miss Invitational.
The Lady Demons begin the affair with their first meeting against Coastal Carolina at 10 a.m. on Friday and finish the doubleheader day with a 4 p.m. start against former Southland foe UTSA. The weekend ends with the host on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Saturday’s match against the Rebels will be broadcast on ESPN+. Live stat links for Friday’s contests are available at http://www.nsudemons.com.
With a tough weekend ahead the Lady Demons are looking to build on the positives from the 3-1 midweek loss to ULM, as the still young team continues to gel on the court.
“In the big picture there were a lot of good things that happened, but we struggled in some moments that were important,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “The most being those last five points of the fourth where we had a lead through the majority of that set that we needed to put away.”
In the closest set of the night, NSU took a 21-20 lead on a Kate Idrogo kill, but three straight points from the Warhawks, two coming on NSU errors, saw the lead and set begin to slip away. The match ended somewhat unceremoniously with a joust at the net between Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa and ULM’s Mariana Volponi e Giordan that trickled off the net and onto the home side.
After a night of big swings and massive blocks from both sides, the less than emphatic end to the match left something to be desired. The big swings and take-no-prisoner kills the Lady Demons have produced so far this season have been a welcome change from a year ago.
“You can be smart with what you’re doing and still take a big swing,” Kiracofe said. “We’re seeing a lot more of that this year and that’s good to see. It’s going to keep paying off as we go through the season.”
Thus far it’s been the NSU middles, Garcia-Rosa and Audrey Quesnel, that have produced the most at the most efficient pace. The two combined for 23 kills on 38 swings against ULM, a .474 hitting percentage. Through three sets Quesnel had nine kills on 12 error-free swings, a picture of the consistency she has shown this year and in her young career.
“As a middle when you get set it’s usually when the pass is perfect, so you usually get the best sets,” she said. “When you get that opportunity, you have to make the most of it and get those swing in.”
The duo in the middle have been a key part of the spread attack NSU has had with the crop of pin hitters that create a dynamic offense. NSU has four players with 20 or more kills on the season, and seven with 10 or more in just four matches, led by Symone Wesley’s 38. Garcia-Rosa and Quesnel are second and third on the team with 25 and 24 respectively.
All will be asked to continue to take steps forward in a weekend filled with quality opposition.
“We did a lot of good things against ULM we just couldn’t put it together for the entire match or when it mattered the most, but we’re on the doorstep,” Kiracofe said. “This weekend we’re going to be against teams that aren’t going to have big swings up and down, a high error thing, it’s going to be a consistent and sustained attack.
“It’s going to be a great test of tying together those moments where we’re good point after point and stress our own consistency. That will pay off in the next two weekends where we see some good teams, some teams with some ups and downs and how consistent can we be whether that team on the other side is doing really well or making errors.”
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services
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