Practice paid off for Northwestern State on Tuesday night to the tune of 14 service aces, the most in a match in the past three seasons, and a 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-20) sweep of Grambling.
“We worked on it so I was happy to see it,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said, who also earned his 100th career victory, the first NSU volleyball coach to reach the mark, on the night.
“Grambling came out with intent to play hard and win. They showed that in the first set and really made us earn that. It was good to see that we were able to respond and close out a set that was close again.”
Both team slogged their way through the early part of the match, neither side able to establish an advantage on either side of the net.
The Demons (2-7) looked poised to final seize control of the set on a late 4-0 run featuring the fourth and fifth aces of the set on back-to-back points from Amina Attra that made the score 22-17. Four straight kills though from the Tigers quickly closed the gap and the 7-1 overall run gave them set point at 24-23.
A critical block from Reaghan Thompson and Symone Wesley out of an NSU timeout held off set point, evened the game at 24 and started a 3-0 run that flipped the set on its head. Wesley shot a ball down the line to give NSU set point on the next chance and Attra finished things off with a perfectly placed dump for the 26-24 winner.
After five aces in the first set, the Demons and namely setter Piper Boydstun were just getting started.
Boystun got the first two points of the second set with aces leading to four straight points to open the frame for the Demons.
“We’ve been practicing our serves a lot and staying aggressive from the service line to try and keep teams out of system,” Boydstun said. “They (Grambling) are a very scrappy team so our goal was to keep them out of system as much as possible so we just tried to stay aggressive on that front all game.
“I feel like serving is one of my strong suits and something that I have a lot of confidence in. So when I go back there I think about placement and who’s where and definitely try and move the ball around as much as I can.”
Her third ace later on in the set gave the Demons a 13-7 lead and a 5-1 run moments later, where Reaghan Thompson had her hand in four of the five points with two kills and two block assists, was plenty of juice to propel NSU to an easy 25-18 second-set win.
Thompson was one of four players with three kills in the second set, along with Breanna Burrell, Teresa Garza and Wesley as NSU spread the offensive wealth once again.
We’re really lucky to have as much depth offensively on the team as we do,” Boydstun said. “It’s nice to be able to spread the ball around and I felt like we did a really good job with our middles tonight and when they were covered we could send the ball somewhere else and be confident in them to score.”
The Demons jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the third set, but saw their lead slip away on a 5-0 Grambling run that tied the game at 17. Thompson and Makenna Tryon connected on a big block to end the run and the team traded points until the 20 mark.
After a Wesley kill, Boydstun stepped to the service line one final time and delivered her career-tying and passing sixth and seventh aces of the night engineering the 5-0 Demon run to finish the set and the sweep.
On top of the season-best 14 aces, the Demons totaled double-digit blocks for the third straight match with 10 led by Thompson’s six and La’Treva Kennedy’s four. Burrell led the team with eight kills with four total players with six or more kills.
“It’s some good personal validation,” Kiracofe said of his 100th career win. “In different seasons we’ve had some ups and downs and expected this 100th win to come a little sooner but it is what it is. It is certainly gratifying as a coach to hit that century mark.”