The 20-25, 27-29, 21-25 ends NSU’s eight match winning streak and drops the Lady Demons to 20-9 overall and 12-5 in Southland Conference play. The Sugar Bears improve to 26-4, 14-3.
“I don’t think we matched their offense,” said NSU co-head coach Hugh Hernesman. “We knew coming in that we were going to have to kill the ball at a very high level and they certainly did but we fell a little short.”
UCA’s Jessica Hays dominated, landing a game-high 17 kills.
O’Connell hammered down a team-high 11 kills while Neely tacked on eight kills, three aces and two blocks.
Keelie Arneson and Glynna Johnson controlled NSU’s defensive efforts. Arneson dug up 11 attacks and Johnson recorded four blocks.
The first set started out in the Lady Demons favor as NSU took the first point of the game. UCA tied the set up several times before the Lady Demons finally lost the lead at the 17-16 mark.
Northwestern State attempted to come back but was unsuccessful, dropping the set 25-20.
UCA came out hot in the second set, running out to an early 3-0 lead. The Lady Demons quickly closed the gap, taking over at the 6-5 mark. The game went back and forth for a few points until NSU took the lead at the 9-8 mark.
The Lady Demons maintained the momentum, leading by as many as five points, until the Sugar Bears regained the lead as the scoreboard read 23-22. NSU battled for the win but could not hang on, dropping the set 29-27.
NSU looked determined in the third set as it took an early 5-2 advantage. The Lady Demons maintained their lead until a kill by UCA’s Taylor Hammond sparked a 7-0 run, giving the Sugar Bears a 19-13 lead.
The Lady Demons tried to regain momentum but fell short as UCA won 25-21.
“I think our team is very good at bouncing back when things aren’t going well,” said Hernesman. “I think the girls have already accepted the fact that we did not play our best tonight and they are ready to move on and prepare for Saturday.”
Northwestern State travels to Oral Roberts on Saturday for their final match of the regular season. The Southland Conference Tournament is next weekend hosted by UCA.