Northwestern State passed its first test of the weekend on Thursday with an all-around team win. The next challenge for the maturing Lady Demons lies in the quick turnaround that comes with another road match two days later.
NSU travels to Nicholls (7-11, 0-6) looking for a better result this Saturday than it had a week ago following a quality win. First serve is set for 1 p.m. with live coverage links available a http://www.nsudemons.com.
The Lady Demons (8-13, 2-4) fought from back from early deficits in both the second and third sets against a scrappy New Orleans team on Thursday night. They held off three set points in the second storming back to a 26-24 win and hammered seven straight kills late in the third to take it 25-23.
The critical moments in both of those sets turned in NSU’s favor thanks to clutch plays from multiple sources on multiple occasions. A kill from any number of attackers at any position on the net, a block in the middle or at either pin or a point-saving dig from the back line all went for the Lady Demons on Thursday.
In four-set matches it was the first time since the 2018 season NSU had four players with 10 or more kills and the first time since 2016 they had five players with 10 or more digs, the two have never occurred in the same match in program history before Thursday.
In-match adjustments contributed to the varied success seen against UNO and will once again test the Lady Demons on Saturday. Both New Orleans and Nicholls have made formation changes from match to match this season forcing a wider lens of preparation in a shorter window.
“They have a couple of key players that you know you’re going to have to defend,” Kiracofe said. “But they’ve been in and out of a 6-2 and a 5-1, changed some people around which is common, we’ve done the same things, to figure out what works best. There’s a big difference depending on which formation they’re in and they’ve been bouncing between them.”
The Colonels are still winless in conference play after a 3-1 loss to Southeastern on Thursday, that coming after a five-set loss to UIW a week ago where they jumped ahead two sets to none. Prior to their current seven match losing skid, Nicholls picked up quality wins against Southern Miss, UTRGV and UMBC during the non-conference schedule.
Senior outside Emily Gauthreaux has been the primary offensive force the past few years for the Colonels and leads them in kills and kills per set once again this year. She is fifth in the conference with a 2.76 average.
Nicholls has two players ranked in the top 10 in hitting percentage in the conference to complement Gauthreaux’s kill totals.
“They’ve been pushing people to five and are in a lot of ways like UT Arlington when we played them,” Kiracofe said. “They have been able to go four and five with a bunch of people and compete with different teams in different ways. They just haven’t quite been able to figure out how to finish towards the end and turn those things into wins.
“They’re pushing people and doing some good things just when it matters the most have struggled a little bit and haven’t been able to turn it into wins but they’re right there.”
Photo: Gary Hardamon