BEAUMONT, Texas – In a key match against a familiar opponent, Northwestern State stepped up in a major way when it counted most to win a 3-1 (18-25, 25-13, 26-24, 25-18) decision at Lamar on Saturday afternoon.
“This was the most important match to this point in the season for us,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “It wasn’t that long ago that Lamar was in our conference so that was a conference match in my opinion. It matters. We did not play well when we saw them in the Spring so there was a little bit of some retribution there for us too. To have that close set at the end was important for us to be able to pull that out, do your job and win those points.”
The Lady Demons did not get off to a favorable start in the first set. Multiple attack errors and balls missing the line by several inches all but handed the 1-0 match led to the Cardinals. Eleven errors in the first set, nearly as many as they had the rest of the match combined, put the Lady Demons behind following the 25-18 opener.
The second set was a much different story.
After a couple of early errors things began to fall into place with a 15-4 swing that made things a runaway win for the Lady Demons. Breanna Burrell and Symone Wesley started finding their swings and tips during the stretch and four of the final six points of the set came on NSU kills from four different players.
The critical set in the match was easily the third, with both teams vying to take control and pick up a needed win. A back-and-forth, incredibly close set went down to the wire and beyond the normal 25 points needed, with the Lady Demons showing plenty of grit to get the job done.
Down by three late in the frame with the tension in the gym at its peak and the crowd fully investing into every swing, an NSU block from Audrey Quesnel and Kate Idrogo after a long rally was the spark that lit the fire.
The turning-point play that prevented the Cardinals from reaching set point was the first of four straight points for NSU that presented the first set point in the other direction. Lamar evened the set at 24 with a kill but emphatic blasts from Wesley and Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa quickly put things to bed for NSU at 26-24.
For the second match in a row three players had double-figure kills for the Demons. Wesley, Garcia-Rosa and Burrell accomplished the task against Lamar with none bigger than the final two of the third set.
“There are going to be tense moments where we have to win that one thing and you have to win that one battle, whatever it is,” Kiracofe said. “But when you look at the match as a whole you have to be able to spread that stuff out so you’re not one dimensional the entire time. So, it was good that we were able to have that distribution from an offensive standpoint.”
The Cardinals seemed unphased by the emotional loss of the third set, jumping out to an 8-2 lead in the fourth on five kills and three blocks.
NSU was able to stay the course and chipped away at the early deficit and took the 14-13 lead on a Burrell dagger. Her kill was part of a 13-3 NSU run started by a kill and ace from Piper Boydstun and punctuated by a kill and solo block from Garcia-Rosa that made it a 21-15 game.
A Lamar miss gave the final point to the Demons one serve after Wesley picked up her 11th kill of the match.
Wesley and Haley Hoang each received all-tournament for the weekend. It is the second selection of the season for Wesley after tallying 31 kills and 26 dig and the first for Hoang who collected 50 digs for a 5.0 per set average.
The Lady Demons return to Prather Coliseum on Tuesday for a 5:30 p.m. match with Jackson State.