Brister relives stellar season, helps shape next generation

A summer staple and a rare talent recently met once again for Northwestern State volleyball.

Each summer, typically in July, the Lady Demons host various volleyball camps for area kids from elementary through high school age, and each summer members of the NSU squad spend time working with the campers and generally just having fun playing the sport.

This summer not only did current Demons share their knowledge and enjoyment with the campers but a former standout for NSU offered her time as well.

The 2019 Southland Conference Player of the Year and multi-category record holder Hannah Brister made a return trip to Natchitoches for the first time since her graduation in the Fall of 2020.

Seeing the “Welcome to Natchitoches” sign and turning on to campus for the first time since transferring to LSU to play beach volleyball, the memories from a historic 2019 season, for herself and the team, came rushing back.

“The thing that really sticks out was us making it to the postseason,” Brister said. “That was really big for the program and really monumental for us I think.

“And just our team in general that year, I was wishing for one more year with them. The memories we made on bus trips, going to Wyoming, it was just fun would be the best way I could describe it.”

Brister helped lead a senior- and experience-laden squad to the program’s second postseason berth in history and the first as an at-large team in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.

Brister’s 2019 campaign was one of the most prolific offensive seasons in program history. She set five different single-season records including becoming the first NSU player to surpass 500 kills in a season, finishing with 539 and an equally as impressive 4.77 kill per set average.

She was well on her way to becoming NSU’s all-time leaders in kills, by passing assistant coach Stacey Aldredge’s current record of 1,318, but a global pandemic had other plans.

COVID-19 and the postponement of the 2020 fall season sent Brister to Baton Rouge without the opportunity to finish her fourth indoor season as a Demon. While the all-time record was certainly on her mind at the end of her spectacular junior season, looking back, the missed opportunity to play her final indoor season at NSU is what mattered more.

“It was definitely bittersweet not being able to finish out with my senior class,” she said. “We were set to finish well that next season. Those are my girls so definitely bittersweet.”

She was able to play in the delayed indoor season for the Tigers before moving to the sand and joining the beach volleyball team.

“It was a big challenge, but a fun challenge,” she said about the transition from NSU to LSU. “I’m the type of player that loves a challenge and to go from being one of the stand outs at Northwestern to possibly coming off the bench at LSU, it forced me to work towards that next level and the player that I am now.”

Striving towards that next step is what allowed Brister to accomplish what she did at NSU and what she hopes she can help instill in the next generation of athletes, especially those in her home state of Louisiana, by working with them as often as she can.

“We have the athletes here there is no doubt about that,” Brister said. “So I think it comes from coaches like Sean and Stacey that put in the time and effort to giving these young players the tools they need to be successful.”

Photo: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services