Northwestern State overcame a slow start and a scrappy Texas Southern team on Tuesday night to earn its first win of the season 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-16, 25-21).
Save for one set the teams battled to and beyond the 20-point mark, but it was the superior block of the Demons that helped shift the tide. NSU recorded double-digit blocks for the third time this season, and the second match in a row, also helping the team to a season-high 105 digs on the season.
Bad timing and very few quality swings in the first set gave the Tigers a lot of easy-to-handle balls that they took advantage of to win the opening set. Four straight kills and a 7-1 overall run late in the set turned a two-point NSU lead into a four-point deficit that TSU was able to finish off 25-20.
NSU hit a match-low .016 with 11 attack errors to start the match.
“We realized after that first set that wasn’t what we expected to come in and do and how could we take the situation and make it better,” Teresa Garza said. “We just had to respond positively and not let our errors keep piling up. In the timeout between sets we got together and said this is what’s going to change and how we’re going to do it and support each other in those situations.”
The adjustment came right away and was evident from three strong kills from Tessa Gerwig to being the second set. The third of her kills began a 6-0 NSU run punctuated by a pair of blocks from Reaghan Thompson and Garza.
The scrappy Tigers though hung tough and worked their way back through the set and tied the match in the late stages at 23. Another Thompson block, with Breanna Burrell, with the set tied at 24 edged the Demons ahead and a TSU attack error evened the match at one set each.
NSU used the momentum of the set win to cruise through the third set. A 6-0 run early in the frame helped the Demons double up the Tigers 14-7 and a 4-0 run later after the teams traded points for nine serves, propelled the Demons to the 25-16 set win.
The Demons had 16 kills in the set with just three attack errors for a match-best .241 hitting percentage.
NSU led through the entirety of the fourth set, building as much as a six-point lead late at 19-13, before the Tigers made a late push to try and extend the match to a fifth set.
A 4-0 burst closed the gap to within two points before a critical kill from Burrell ended the run to push the lead back to three points. Garza and Thompson also provided important kills after the Tigers continued to find points keeping the match close.
During one of the many long rallies of the match, Amina Attra caught the defense off guard with a dump for a kill setting the stage for the final block of the night, once again from Thompson and Burrell.
“Reaghan does a great job of closing the block and our pins do a great job of setting it up for her,” Garza said. “We all sort of collaborate on that and it helps the defense so much knowing where to go in the back row and where the hitters are going. To have that established in every set is awesome and brings so much energy to the team.”
Thompson finished the night with 10 blocks, matching a career high and her third double-digit blocking effort in her career, missing a double-double by one kill finishing with nine. Garza led the offense with 11 kills, picking up 27 digs as well, for her third double-double of the season. Piper Boydstun also tallied a double-double with 24 assists and 11 digs.
The win snaps NSU’s seven-match losing skid to start the season against one of its toughest non-conference slates in recent years.
“We’ve worked so hard this preseason so this win feels awesome,” Garza said. “We’ve played some tough matches but took every opportunity to grow from those games and tonight felt awesome to put it all together and see a win.”