Strong serves and a near mistake free attack spelled defeat for Northwestern State in its Southland Conference opener on Saturday afternoon.
Southeastern Louisiana (2-10, 1-0) used consistent well-placed serves to keep the Lady Demons (6-10, 0-1) out of sorts and carried their recent offensive prowess through the match taking the 3-1 (25-22, 25-13, 18-25, 25-19) win to start league play.
“There were times certainly in that first set where we could have done better things in serve receive,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “We knew they were going to serve tough going in and we didn’t handle it will in sets two or four but there were times where we could do something fairly good with the ball but we weren’t able to turn their easy balls back into points.
“That’s what matters against an unbelievably scrappy team like SLU. It doesn’t always turn into something aggressive that comes back, they’re just keeping the ball alive. We had to turn that around and have multiple offensive options and put the ball away and we didn’t always do that.”
A back-and-forth first set that saw eight lead changes and 14 tie scores was by far the most competitive of the four on the day. The Lions used a 5-0 run, that included the first two of their eight aces in the match, to take an 11-9 lead. The Lady Demons answered right back with four straight of their own to regain the advantage.
A kill from Ashlyn Svoboda moved the Demons ahead right after both teams reached the 20-point mark. The inability to come up with a critical play or point late in the set cost the Lady Demons the opener. After an NSU service error tied the game again, four kills in the next five overall points from the Lions gave them the set 25-22.
Already playing with confidence on the offensive side from their previous two matches, the Lady Lions put their prowess on full display in the second set. At one point during the set 11 straight SLU points came on kills, scoring 22 of the needed 25 points in the second set on kills to easily take the set 25-13.
With their backs against the wall in the third set, the Lady Demons stepped up in a key moment to extend the match.
Tied at eight, a heads-up kill from Reagan Lee gave the Demons the lead starting a 5-0 run that carried them to the set win. Breanna Burrell who finished the match with a team-leading 13 kills scored a pair in the run that made it a 13-8 frame.
Lee picked up another important kill and solo block later in the set bolstering the 8-2 NSU run that made it a 24-15 game, giving the Demons their first set point of the match. A couple of kills from the Lions created a tiny bit of drama but a service error gave the final point to the Demons.
An 11-1 run early in the fourth set put the Lady Demons behind by nine, forcing them to claw their way back in the hopes of forcing a fifth set.
Three quick kills from Burrell and Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa helped chip away at the lead and consecutive aces from Haley Hoang brought the Lady Demons even closer at 21-18. NSU had two good swings at extending the 4-0 run and make it a two-point affair, but the kill would not come with the rally ending on an SLU kill that pushed the lead back to four.
Two more kills and a service ace ended the match for the Lions and moved the Demons to 0-1 in Southland play.
NSU had three players reach double figures in kills and Hoang led all players with 27 digs, one off of her career high of 28 set against SLU during the spring season.
The Lady Demons travel to UIW and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi next week for their first two-match SLC weekend.
PHOTO: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services