Lady Demons travel to Nicholls for lone match of the week

THIBODAUX – Everyone needs a little breather sometimes, a chance to take a beat and refresh for the next task.

After the most intensive portion of the schedule ended with two challenging Southland Conference opponents, Northwestern State gets that breather, if only for a moment, this week with just a single match on the schedule.

“They needed a day off this week because we’ve been asking a lot of them and so they got that on Monday,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “But we do have time now to really be able to focus on people more, especially this week with just the one match.”

The Lady Demons (10-7, 3-3) used Monday’s day off to recuperate and ready themselves for their next two matches that just so happen to be against the same opponent. Thursday’s contest at Nicholls (4-13, 1-4) starts a home-and-home with the Colonels that will finish in Prather Coliseum a week later.

The match in Thibodaux this week starts at 6:30 p.m. with live stat links available on or through the NSU Athletics mobile app, a free download in either the Apple or Google stores. There will be no video feed of the match.

Two solid showings against the top two teams in the conference within a three-day span told the Lady Demons they were on the right track and moving in the right direction. A continually evolving team connection on the floor, the willingness to fight for each other and confident approaches across the board are the fuel for NSU as it nears the mid-point of the conference schedule.

“I feel like my confidence level is at an all-time high,” sophomore outside Breanna Burrell said, who enters the week with nine straight double-digit kill matches. “I’ve been doing a lot of positive self-talk before our games. I’ll just sit in my locker, close my eyes and tell myself what I want to do.”

Burrell is just one piece of the NSU attack that has fed off the team-first mentality, adding more and more confident swings and plays on a more regular basis.

“I think a lot of it (confidence) comes from how we hype each other up on the court,” Burrell added. “Reaghan (Thompson) said after one of our games, ‘I love cheering for you. It’s one of my favorite things to do while we play.’ Hearing that and seeing it makes me want to do even better.”

Setter Piper Boystsun, who missed two and a half matches after an injury in the match at McNeese, echoed those sentiments during her off-the-court work to get herself back on the floor a week later against Houston Christian.

“Watching them get the win at McNeese was such an awesome feeling,” she said. “I could feel them standing behind me then and the entire time I was getting treatment to get back on the court. They were constantly supportive the whole time. Just such a great feeling.”

Against Nicholls, it becomes about taking the positive aspects of two solid performances agasint two of the top teams into a match where the matchups are just as similar but the challenge to win becomes even more vital.

“It’s a different level of intensity going into the match where there are no second chances at this,” Kiracofe said. “Southland volleyball this year is just so much better than it has been in previous years.

“You don’t have anybody at the bottom that you can go half speed against and with the tests being given to the top of the league, no one is just running away with it. Everyone is beatable. While that is good for us in the sense, we can beat anybody, the opposite is true as well, so we have to be on top of what we’re doing.”

With Burrell swinging at one of the best clips of her career, Thompson continuing to produce at the highest percentage in the conference and a backline defense with three players averaging more than 2.5 digs per set – Laura Weatherford (2.54), Ashlyn Svoboda (3.67) and Symone Wesley (4.79) – in conference play, it is matter of playing mistake-free volleyball that will determine NSU’s success.

“I think the big thing is just playing clean,” Boydstun said. “Cleaning up the errors we’ve made in previous games, especially this week during practice. It’s just cleaning them up and trying to perfect things as much as we can. Make the things that are good, great.”

Photo: Gary Hardamon