After nearly a month between games, Northwestern State returns to action on Tuesday looking for a quick return to form before the second season begins four days later.
With the Southland Conference opener against preseason top-pick Southeastern looming this weekend, the Lady Demons (6-4) have a chance to shake off any potentially accumulated rust against an experienced Champion Christian (7-3) team on Tuesday night.
Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. in Prather Coliseum will be broadcast locally in Natchitoches on 95.9 FM Kix Country.
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Fans in attendance are encouraged to wear masks while inside the arena and must adhere to the University’s clear bag policy.
To this point in the season the Lady Demons have shown plenty of grit and resiliency on the court. They had to employ that same resilient nature across the past two weeks with their last four scheduled games canceled due to COVID-19 and health and safety concerns. Those hurdles turned a one-week break following the Tarleton State game on Dec. 18 into a three-week hiatus that finally ends on Tuesday.
“We talked a lot last year about being resilient, handling adversity when games get canceled or things change and it’s the same thing now,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We’ve had a handful of kids out so we’ve done some individual stuff, thankfully we have a great staff to be able to maintain practice.
“Collectively they’ve done a nice job going for shorter periods, sometimes twice a day as of late, and it’s allowed them to work on the mental side of things in the afternoon. You hate to see a loss in some of the conditioning but when those lights come on for this team, they’ll be ready to go.”
One player that is beyond ready to go for the Lady Demons is junior transfer Alecia Whyte how is expected to make her NSU debut against Champion Christian. Whyte, who played the past two seasons at Northern Colorado, has been out since September for precautionary reasons resulting from a concussion.
“It was tough,” she said. “When I found out that I was going to be out for a while, it was a tough thing to hear but I just had to keep a good mindset and focus on school.
“But being on the sidelines I’ve learned a lot from the coaches and been the best cheerleader I can. It was obviously a setback, but I think I’m set up for a major comeback of being able to get my feet back under me and playing again.”
While it will still be a slow entry into the regular rotation for Whyte, the opportunity to finally get on the floor with her teammates has been a long time coming for the Houston native.
“There are some nerves of course but obviously really excited to get out there,” Whyte said. “I’ve been waiting four months since I last played with contact or anything, I’ve been able to practice but it’s not that same as going five-on-five. Just really ready for the game to start.
“I just want to play relaxed and not have too many thoughts going through my head and just play and have fun. Just do what I know how to do and do it well.”
The Lady Demons take on a Champion Christian squad that returns the top four scorers from a team that won the NCCAA Division II National Championship a season ago. Destiny Gonzalez led the team in that win with 26 points and is one of three players averaging more than 10 points per games this year.
The Lady Tigers are a quality opponent that will provide a solid transition back into a regular flow of competition for NSU.
“Excited to have a home game here, yes to knock off some rust but just a chance to see the court live for the first time since Dec. 18,” Nimz said. “That’s a long time to go without getting to play a game.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to play, excited that we’re going to be able to get up and down. But it’s about what do we want, and we have to put it together in the next couple of days, tackle Tuesday and then really focus on taking on Southeastern.”
Photo: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services