Battle-tested Lady Demons win in five sets…again

If there is one thing to describe Northwestern State volleyball during the 2022 season it’s that it is battle tested. 

For the fourth time in the past five matches, and the 12th time this season, the Lady Demons (17-12, 10-8) played a full five-set match. For the third straight time in Prather Coliseum, and the ninth time this season, the Lady Demons finished with a 3-2 (20-25, 29-27, 21-25, 25-23, 18-16) win in Saturday’s regular season finale against Texas A&M-Commerce. 

“We don’t do everything perfect, but we fight, and we always put ourselves in a position to win because of that,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “They just find a way to rally when it matters the most and that’s what you want more than anything if you find yourself in a five-set match.” 

In one of the most tightly contested matches of the season that featured 23 lead changes and 41 instances of a tie score, 33 of those coming in the final three sets, it was NSU’s experience in the tense situations late in the match that helped it prevail. 

Down to match point at 14-12 in the fifth set after a 5-1 run from the Lions (10-22, 6-12), the clutch players that have stepped up time and time again on the year rose to the occasion once more. 

Breanna Burrell buried a kill to pull the Demons within a point, Reaghan Thompson won the one-on-one battle in the middle with the Lions’ Yasmin Figueiredo with a solo block and the duo teamed up for NSU’s 17th block of the match on the next serve giving the Demons match point in the blink of an eye. 

Commerce jumped back ahead on a block and kill, but the Demon held off match point once again, this time from the right arm of Perry Flannigan who scored her sixth kill of the match to start the 3-0 run to end it. Madisynne McQueen banged a ball off the block for the match winner, her eighth kill of the day. 

The teams combined for 32 blocks in the match, including the three pivotal ones in the waning moments of the match, with NSU winning the category for the 23rd time this season collecting the second most in a match this season with 17. It was the 10th time NSU had 10 or more blocks in a match. 

“There were a lot of blocks today on both sides,” Kiracofe said. “Some of those were bad swings and some were just great blocks. Our block has been really good all year and teams make the choice not to hit into it. Both teams did a good job of avoiding the block, so the fact that we put up those kinds of number is pretty crazy.” 

Eight players total had five or more blocks in the match. The Lady Demons had four reach the number including a new career high for Flanningan (7), match of career high for Symone Wesley (5) and the third match this season for Thompson to reach 10. 

Thompson now sits in second on the single-season block list with 133, own three of the six highest single-match block performances in program history and along with her 11 kills is the first player ever to record multiple kill-block double-doubles in a season or a career. 

With the win the Lady Demons secure the fifth seed in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament. They will face the eight seed UIW on Thursday at the University Center in Hammond at 2 p.m.