If there is one thing Northwestern State has following week five of the 2022 season, it’s momentum.
Following a dramatic, potentially season-defining win at McNeese on Saturday afternoon, the fifth win in five-set matches this season, the Lady Demons carry said momentum to the western edge of the Southland Conference for a rare Monday evening match.
NSU (9-5, 2-1) takes on UIW (1-11, 0-2) from the McDermott Center beginning at 6 p.m. Live coverage links for the match are available at http://www.nsudemons.com or on the NSU Athletics mobile app, a free download in either the Apple or Google stores.
With four straight wins entering the match, and five in their last six overall, it is easy to see from a pure number’s perspective the momentum NSU has picked up in the past two weeks. The per set averages in nearly every significant category have seen increases between the first eight matches and the last six. The 17.8 dig per set average of the past six matches seeing the biggest jump of nearly four digs per set.
But it is the intangible momentum that the Lady Demons earned on Saturday that may be the most important factor the rest of the season.
An almost entirely new group of players that have connected off the court brought that comradery on the court against McNeese, rallying for a win after a key injury forced a new offensive system and players to rise to the occasion, something they did with flying colors.
“I’m really proud of this group for making a decision to fight for each other to get the win against McNeese,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “It’s one thing to rally and get a win in a set when something like an injury happens.
“It’s much more difficult to sustain that for the rest of a match against a team like McNeese who just had a great comeback five-set win during the Thursday match. It’s a defining moment for this team to be able to look back on when things aren’t going their way to show what they’re capable of.”
The “there-for-you” approach each of the Lady Demons has for their teammates served them well against the Cowgirls. With just one day before their next match, the tactical adjustments will need to be made quickly to go along with the fellowship on the court.
“UIW is a team with a lot of physical talent that hasn’t consistently put it together this season yet,” Kiracofe said. “They have the potential to warrant their preseason pick of fifth but haven’t been able to play at that level yet in the first few matches of the conference season.”
Whatever the path may be for running the offensive attack, NSU still has two of the most dynamic outside hitters and two of the most solid middles in the conference at its disposal.
Breanna Burrell and Symone Wesley are averaging around three kills per set in the past six matches while Reaghan Thompson and Jordan Gamble are both attacking at a .248 or better clip during that same time, not to mention their prowess on the defensive side, averaging just under a block per set each.
“We have a lot of work to do to figure out what we’re going to look like until Piper (Boydstun) comes back from her injury,” Kiracofe said. “Whether it’s Piper or Amina (Attra), we become very small in a 5-1. Clearly, we managed that well during the McNeese match but doing it long-term could turn out to be difficult.”
Photo: Gary Hardamon