Burrell helps spark Lady Demons to home sweep

NATCHITOCHES – It took a handful of serves for Northwestern State to shake the nerves from the much-anticipated home opener on Tuesday night. Once it did, however, there was no looking back as the Lady Demons cruised to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-12) sweep of Texas Southern.

“It felt like we were the only team in the nation that hadn’t had a home game yet,” leading scorer Breanna Burrell said with a chuckle. “So, there was definitely some nerves for us. But one of the early balls was an inside set and after I got that one, I was like, let’s go, let’s keep going. The connection with Piper (Boydstun) was really great tonight and we were really hitting it off.

Burrell had the most efficient night of her career with 15 kills, five in each of the three sets, on just 24 total swings for a .542 hitting percentage, topping the .538 mark she set nearly a year ago to the day.

The Lady Demons trailed 14-9 at one point in the first set, but following the media timeout put the first-home-match nerves behind them in a massive way.

NSU went on a 14-3 run after the break with two separate 6-0 stretches to pull away for the first set win. Burrell had four of the Lady Demons’ seven kills during the stretch and helped on the final blow, the fifth block of the set, a combo with Reaghan Thompson.

“We didn’t quite connect well there at the beginning but got back into it, started putting the ball away, Brea started hammering away and that kind of work everybody up,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said.

The block helped tell the tale of the rest of the match as middles Jordan Gamble, Riley Daniel, La’Treva Kennedy and Thompson forced the Tiger offense into more predictable situations through the second and third frames.

“We were reading them really well and our pin hitters were setting the blocks really good for us too,” Thompson, who finished with six kills and three blocks, said. “So the middles can’t take all the credit but it eventually made their hitters start tipping instead.”

The scrappy Texas Southern side used a 4-0 run to pull with three of NSU mid-way through the third (18-15), but a Perry Flannigan kill and some self-inflicted errors kept them from pushing any closer. Burrell ended the second set with her 10th kill of the night, another rocket down the line to give NSU the 2-0 match lead.

After waiting over a month to play on the redesigned Prather Coliseum floor, the Lady Demon sent the home faithful away with just as much excitement as they felt prior to the match.

A 10-1 run with six straight NSU points coming on kills from Symone Wesley, Addison McDermott, Gamble Kennedy and Burrell cemented the first home sweep of the season.

“I was so excited,” Thompson said about playing in her first home match at NSU. “The energy was crazy. It was cool to have friends come because we’ve been talking about it for so long. We were all so excited.”

NSU plays its next three matches on the road with a trip to Beaumont, Texas and a date with Lamar set for Thursday evening.

Photo: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services