Lady Demons dig into the season at NIKE Invitational in Oklahoma

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NSU Sports Information

For the second consecutive season, the Northwestern State volleyball team travels to the state of Oklahoma for an early-season tournament. This time it is the NIKE Invitational hosted by the University of Oklahoma.

A year ago, the Lady Demons trekked to Tulsa 12 matches into the season to face a trio of challenging opponents at the Tulsa Volleyball Invitational. This time, the team is aiming for more success as they will face off against Colorado, Oklahoma and Seton Hall.

“We’re blanketing Oklahoma, going back this year,” third-year head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “Everyone’s excited for the first tournament to see what you’ve got. There’s still going to be some experimentation with lineups.

“We’ve got some tough matchups with all three teams. We’re going to have to go out and fight for every point. It’ll be fun to see what comes of it.”

The Lady Demons’ roster features a heavy junior and freshman lineup. Ten of the 15 members on the roster are either juniors or freshmen with Kylie Spencer being the lone senior.

“With our incoming freshmen we really have just been trying to show them the ropes,” junior outside hitter Reagan Rogers said. “We want to compete every day. We want to work hard every day and make each other better. Alongside Kylie we’re just trying to show them the right way and how we do things here.”

Junior middle blocker Madeline Drake, a Tulsa native, is excited for the opportunity to play in front of family, friends, and former coaches once again.

For Drake, a trip to Oklahoma also means getting to reconnect with her close younger sister, Ella, who also dons the No. 7.

First on the docket for the Lady Demons is Colorado, a team that recorded five wins over ranked teams in 2016. First serve for the match against the Buffaloes was Friday at 4:30 p.m.

The Lady Demons will then turn around and play a pair of matches on Saturday, first against Oklahoma at 12:30 p.m. and finally against Seton Hall at 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s matchup against Oklahoma can be viewed live on TV on Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox College Sports Central and streamed on FoxSportsGo and SoonerSports.tv.

“It was good last year because we were a seasoned team by then,” Drake said, referring to the tournament in Tulsa in 2016. “This year, it’s our first tournament, so we’ll be figuring a few things out.

“With the setters, that connection may take a while to come. Kat (junior setter Kathryn Wristen) and I are living together this year so we have a really good connection,” Drake said.

Oklahoma finished the 2016 season 14-15, but went 9-4 in non-conference play to open the year.

“They’re going to be big,” Kiracofe said. “Colorado’s big. Oklahoma’s big. They both lost some important players from last year, so it’ll be interesting to see who they come out with as far as a starting lineup, because there’s going to be some definite changes.”

Seton Hall had an up-and-down 2016 culminating with a Big East semifinal appearance. On the top of the to-do list is finding a replacement for three-time Big East Libero of the Year Tessa Fournier. The defensive award was the fifth straight for Seton Hall.

“I don’t know a whole lot about Seton Hall in the last two years so that’ll be someone we want to pay attention to when we get a live scout,” Kiracofe said.

Lady Demons fans can follow live updates during the tournament via Twitter @NSUdemonsVB.