NSU followed up the monumental win an hour later, capturing another sweep, this time over Mississippi Valley State (25-8, 25-6, 25-9).
For their efforts over the weekend, senior Mackenzie Neely, sophomore Lauren Agan and senior Keelie Arneson were named to the all-tournament team.
“This has been a long time coming for this program,” fifth-year head coach Hugh Hernesman said. “We’ve got a saying around our program that good volleyball knows no levels and this is a direct testament to that. We’ve got tremendous respect for (Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow and director of volleyball Susan) and what they’ve built at Mizzou, so to be able to come out on top over such a great program makes us extremely proud.”
NSU came out firing in the first set, stringing together six consecutive points early to claim a 10-6 lead. NSU led by five points twice at 12-7 and again at 15-10 on a kill from freshman Aubrey Davis. Mizzou would bring the game as close as 19-18 before NSU went on a tear, scoring six of the game’s last seven points to take set number one.
After falling behind early in the second set, NSU battled back to take a 10-9 lead on a kill from junior Amanda Kunz. The Lady Demons would tally three consecutive points, taking a 14-11 lead and forcing Mizzou to take a timeout.
Two clutch kills from Davis and another from Agan helped NSU extend its lead to 19-16 and they would not look back. NSU took the final six points of the match highlighted by consecutive kills from junior Glynna Johnson to win set two 25-19.
With the Tigers needing a win in set three, NSU kept the pressure on, claiming a three-point lead at 13-10 and 14-11 thanks to kills by senior Mackenzie Neely and Johnson respectively. The NSU lead reached four at 16-12 behind a Davis kill and 17-13 thanks to another Johnson kill.
A senior Stacey DiFrancesco kill put the NSU lead at 20-16 before Mizzou tallied three consecutive points of its own. Following an NSU timeout, Neely’s kill and a Tigers error pushed the lead to 23-19. After some anxious moments during a Mizzou run, NSU closed the set and match out on a Neely kill at 25-22.
“Mackenzie Neely had a tremendous performance throughout the match and there was no doubt who was getting the ball on match point,” Hernesman said. “She took a tough, high, aggressive swing in a situation where you can’t afford to be tentative and it obviously paid off.”
Neely led the Lady Demons with 14 kills followed by Davis with eight and Glynna Johnson with six. Arneson added 13 digs while senior Emily Johnson grabbed 21 assists.
“Despite the fact that we won in three, it was a back and forth match with lots of momentum swings,” Hernesman said. “I thought we did a great job of handling the tough situations and sticking with our training that we work so hard on every day.”
Against Mississippi Valley State, Northwestern State rattled off 12 consecutive points on the way to a dominating 25-8 first set victory. NSU also captured a streak of six straight points to help close things out.
“We were real pleased with our focus level with this match considering the win just hours before,” Hernesman said. “I thought we served very well and put pressure on Mississippi Valley from the start. From there, we were able to play low-error volleyball.”
In the second set, NSU didn’t miss a beat, jumping out to a 7-0 lead highlighted by three service aces from freshman Madison Walford. After MVSU got on the board, NSU pushed back on the accelerator tallying six straight points led by DiFrancesco at the serving line. The Lady Demons would go on to take the set 25-6.
NSU finished off its sweep, improving to 2-1 on the season, with a 25-9 victory. NSU rattled off eight consecutive points stretching its lead to 13-2 and never looked back.
Eight Lady Demons recorded at least one kill led by Agan’s nine on 18 attempts. DiFrancesco added five kills of her own to go along with seven digs and Arneson tallied 11 digs. Walford led NSU with six service aces while redshirt-junior Caiti O’Connell accounted for 10.5 points.
“We got good individual performances from Lauren, Caiti and Glynna,” Hernesman said. “It was also good to get Madison her first collegiate action and she did a great job.”
Northwestern State will return to action Sept. 5 at the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Volleyball Classic from Lafayette. The Lady Demons will take on Southern Mississippi (12 p.m.) which will be followed up by matches on Sept. 6 against Southern (9 a.m.) and Louisiana-Lafayette (5 p.m).