NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State is hoping for a tinge of déjà vu this week, in some ways more than others.
For the second straight Thursday, the Lady Demons (11-7, 4-3) take on Nicholls in a Southland Conference match. While the Colonels dropped their Saturday match to Texas A&M-Commerce, NSU enjoyed an off weekend, giving the Demons two straight matches against Nicholls.
“As a coach I enjoy those situations where you get to play people twice in a short span,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “It’s the battle between coaching honestly. They should present you with something different and it’s just a puzzle you have to figure out.
“It’s still a new game though, there’s no way we can assume things will happen like they did the first time and we have to execute and put ourselves in a position to win again in a new game.”
Thursday’s match will air live on ESPN+ from Prather Coliseum beginning at 6:30 p.m. Live stat links will be available through http://www.nsudemons.com or on the NSU Athletics Mobile app. There is no charge for admission to NSU home volleyball games for those wishing to attend in person.
The main thing the Demons want to see repeat itself again this week is the outcome of the match – a win. Getting to that result with a little less drama and a little more consistency is the goal for this Thursday’s matchup.
After jumping ahead 11-2 in the fourth set, the Lady Demons saw their lead complete disappear and if not for a dramatic 6-0 run to win the match included preventing four Colonel set points, who knows what would have happened in a decisive fifth set.
A huge part of NSU’s win, especially in that final set, was the play of freshman middle Reaghan Thompson. She totaled seven kills in that set alone, half of her season-best 14 on the night, including two pivotal ones with the Demons down 20-18 that tied the game.
“It was get her the ball as much as possible, but it came down to us being able to control that first contact so we could do that,” Kiracofe said. “We feel like we have a physical advantage in the middle with Reaghan and Jordan (Gamble).
“At the same time both the middles for Nicholls are ranked very high in blocks per set and just great blockers. Every once in a while, they’re going to block you, but I think we win that battle more often than not.”
Thompson has certainly won the battle more times than not when it comes to the offensive side of her game. Along with her near one block per set average in conference matches, a top 10 ranking there, she leads the league in attack percentage, by a significant margin.
Her .461 attack percentage against league opponents is 50 points higher than the next closest player and her eight attack errors in seven conference matches is tied for the fewest. She has hit better than .400 in five of the last seven matches and .500 or better in four of the past five.
Her success though, along with her natural talent, comes from NSU’s progression in serve receive and passing over the past few weeks of play.
“Being in the middle you can’t really run anything without a good pass, so serve receive is huge in being able to run the middles,” Thompson said. “With Piper (Boydstun) and Amina (Attra) no one can be successful without good sets, and them watching the block on the other side.
“If I go up and I only have one blocker in front of me then the chance of success is way higher. They’re able to set me up well and it wouldn’t be possible without them.”
As a team the Demons are averaging between four and five attack errors per set over the past four matches. While those numbers as a whole are solid, it is the variance between sets that NSU would like to clean up moving forward.
NSU has had sets with as few as two or three attack errors during that time and in some cases as many 10 in a set.
“We definitely want to stay more consistent throughout the set,” Thompson said. “If we do get up, don’t lose the lead like we did last week. We played pretty scrappy last time, our serve receive was good but just work hard and make sure we’re putting balls away when we have the opportunity.”