"This is the day our staff and players have been looking forward to for what seems like a very long time," fifth-year head coach Hugh Hernesman said. "We've had a great summer with the most player commitment since we've been here."
After reporting Aug. 8, the team began its two-a-days Aug. 9, with morning and afternoon practices running for 16 days through Sunday, Aug. 24.
Northwestern State opens its 2014 season on Aug. 29 at North Texas, beginning a nearly two month road trip highlighted by four tournaments, a midweek match at Baylor and two conference road games. NSU's home opener will be Oct. 2 against Abilene Christian.
For the first time in program history, the Lady Demons will also be playing host to the Southland Conference Tournament that takes place at Prather Coliseum from Nov. 21-23.
The team returns 12 letterwinners including Southland Conference Libero of the Year Keelie Arneson, conference Freshman of the Year Ashley Elrod and first-team all-conference honoree Stacey DiFrancesco.
The squad is laced with leadership and returns five seniors who helped lead NSU to its first back-to-back 20 win seasons in program history including victories over every league opponent except Central Arkansas during that time.
"They basically had to buy into a vision and really take a leap of faith (when signing)," Hernesman said of his senior class. "The season before us had three wins and a 290 RPI. Last year, we finished in the top 100. There are two schools during that time who have improved in RPI more; two out of 330 Division I schools."
After posting a 21-12 (15-3 SLC) record last season, the Lady Demons begin the preparation necessary in hopes of capturing the program's first-ever Southland Conference championship.
"This group is highly motivated and in great shape right now," Hernesman said. "We're just ready to get after it. The competition level in the gym is going to be awesome. It's going to be a fun preseason."
The 41 victories the Lady Demons have had from 2012-13 are the most in a two-year stretch in program history.