The Lady Demons crushed program records in the 2012 season, but the 2013 squad took their game to the next level. The team got off to a rocky 3-8 pre-conference start, but lost just four more matches throughout the season to finish 21-12 overall and 15-3 in the Southland Conference.
"2013 was a season to remember and be proud of for sure. I don't think a lot of people outside of our volleyball family thought we were going to be able to top our record-breaking season of 2012, but despite some unique challenges, we were able show the amount of talent, character and drive the players and staff have to continue to move forward,” said Hernesman. “Our goal at the beginning of each season is to win the conference tournament, so by that measure, we finished just a little bit short. However, when you look back at the record, the conference finish and how we performed at the conference tournament, you can't ignore the fact that the vision never changes for us and we intend on taking this program to new levels each and every year."
NSU recorded its most Division I wins (21) and winning percentage (.636), and the most league wins (15) for a program-best league record (15-3) to notch the highest regular season finish and tournament seeding (two).
The Lady Demons notch another program-high finishing the season at No. 97 in the NCAA RPI, just two spots behind Southland foe Oral Roberts, while two-time conference tournament champions Central Arkansas note No. 45.
The Lady Demons shutout seventh-seeded McNeese State and No. 6 Houston Baptist in the quarter and semi-final rounds, respectively, to earn the program’s first-ever second round win and trip to the championship match. The win over McNeese in the first round was just the second conference tournament victory in program history.
On top of a massive amount of program records, four individuals claimed spots in the NSU single-season and career ledgers.
Keelie Arneson earned Soutland Libero of the Year and a repeat first team All-Conference selection after picking up six Defensive Player of the Week accolades throughout the season, noting fourth in the conference for most weekly honors in a single season. The 5’7 junior snapped her own single-season digs record (618) with 712 this season, and now holds the top three spots in the ledger. Her 1,869 career digs surpass Cathy Herring ’04 who held the program record for the past nine seasons with 1,325.
Arneson recorded a 5.70 digs per set average to rank fifth in the nation, as of Nov. 25, and lead the Southland. The Tomball, Texas, native picked up a career-high 42 digs in the regular season finale at Stephen F. Austin, just one dig shy of making it into the NCAA record book. Arneson also earned All-Tournament team honors alongside Southland Freshman of the Year Ashley Elrod.
"I believe Keelie proved that not only is she the best libero, but that she is one of the best overall and impactful players in the Southland Conference. She will finish this year in the Top 10 in the nation for digs/set and is one of the major reasons why we had the type of year that we did,” said Hernesman. “She has grown so much both on and off the court in the past year and is an outstanding and positive leader for our program."
Elrod is just the second player in program history for earn Freshman of the Year honors, the first going out to Stacey DiFrancesco in 2011. Elrod also picked up second team All-Conference after leading the team with 14 double-doubles this year.
She recorded season-highs of 19 kills, 21 digs and four total blocks, all against Stephen F. Austin.
"What a season for Ashley. It isn't easy to step into a lineup of upperclassmen and fit right in from that start, but that's exactly what Ashley did,” said Hernesman. “She was a very valuable offensive option for us, but also filled into a valuable six-rotation player who passed and defended at a pretty good level for an incoming freshman. Getting Freshman of the Year is a great honor and she'll do very well for herself if she can continue her career path the way Stacey has."
DiFrancesco also earned a repeat first-team All-Conference selection, noting seven double-doubles on the season. The 5’10 outside hitter registered season-highs of 16 kills, twice, and dug up 20 attacks. Her 3,602 career attempts stand at third in the program and she ranks fourth in career kills with 1,070.
"So proud of how Stacey was able to contribute this year. We knew that for us to be a contender this year, her role was going to have to expand from what we asked of her in the past two years,” said Hernesman. “We needed her to not only carry an offensive load, but also to become an elite passer and defender. She did just that while still serving as a very valuable offensive weapon for us."
From the middle, Glynna Johnson finished seventh in the Southland in blocks with 1.02 per set. Her 105 block assists for 2013 rank at the top of the single-single ledger and third in the career column.
“What an incredible amount of progress for Glynna this year. Both her kill and block numbers increased significantly,” said Hernesman. “She has a very good grasp of our blocking schemes after two years now. Glynna had a huge breakthrough about half-way through the season and it was very noticeable to our staff.; she had a different confidence and aggressiveness to her, and once that happened she became quite the force. I give a big amount of credit to her position coach, Lindsey Buteyn, for the progress that she made, along with the progress you saw from all of our middles."
Hernesman (Hugh) picked up his 100th career win in a 3-1 triumph over Nicholls on Oct. 12., and will say goodbye to just one senior, Jessica Guttierrez, who was a member of the Hernesman’s first official recruiting class.
NSU volleyball returns to action in the spring with a series of exhibition matches.