Brad Welborn | NSU
Although the calendar might say Thursday the 13th, Northwestern State may yet still have turned into Nicholls’ own personal Jason Voorhees following another dramatic finish.
The Lady Demons (12-7, 5-3) topped their fourth-set 6-0 run to beat the Colonels a week ago in Thibodaux with a 9-1 fifth-set run on Thursday to slay Nicholls 3-2 (25-12, 21-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-13) in Prather Coliseum.
It is the fourth win for an NSU team against Nicholls in the span of two weeks, three of which seeing late-game drama propel the Demons to victory.
“There was just so much fight,” freshman middle Jordan Gamble said. “It was really exciting on the bench, on the court, everywhere, everybody was a supporter.
“Just looking at someone in face and seeing them screaming when they cheer it’s an amazing feeling. I think that’s what pushed us. We’re all so much more together and comfortable with each other so when you see that emotion right next to you it makes you want to play better.”
Even after a wild 6-0 finish in Thibodaux, the Lady Demons were able to pull off the even more improbable run on Thursday after falling behind 11-4 in the matches’ final frame. Reaghan Thompson provided the spark a week ago but it was Gamble that lit the flame on Thursday.
Her kill, a devastating swing directly into the heart of the Colonel defense, one of two in the run, gave the Demons the boost of energy they needed to pull off the comeback. Piper Boydstun followed Gamble’s kill with one of her two aces in the stretch and there was no looking back.
It might take just one or two points but if we can get that energy going it’s huge,” Thompson said. “Piper had a couple of aces that helped us tremendously and after that all of us on the court got a huge boost of energy. We got our mojo back and fought through to the end to win it.”
The lone Colonel point came on a kill from Paris Dixon that tied the set at 13, but Symone Wesley immediately answered with one of her own and giving NSU the only match point it needed.
The drama that filled every swing in the final two sets was a stark contrast to the beginning of the night as the Lady Demons cruised to a 25-12 first-set win behind a strong service game that kept Nicholls from finding any solid footing on offense.
The Colonels responded with three well-played offensive sets in a row, winning both the second and third to take the 2-1 lead in the match. Nicholls had 19 kills in the second set and just four errors in each of the third and fourth sets.
It was the NSU defense that kept their calm through much of the night, enduring many strong swings from the Colonel offense while the offense searched for it’s rhythm.
“Defensively they had to work really hard with the switching back and forth on what we wanted to take away from Nicholls,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “They kept giving us opportunities and while we weren’t necessarily very efficient offensively tonight it showed up when we needed it the most and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Demons put together their best set of the night in the fourth, hitting a match-best .364 with 16 kills. After a move to the right side mid-match, Thompson delivered four of her season-high 15 kills in the set, to equal Breanna Burrell’s four.
“It definitely took a second to adjust,” Thompson said about the move to the pin. “The ball is so much higher over there so I had to zone in more and be a little more patient with my jumps and swings.”
The win is the sixth this season in eight total five-set matches for NSU and the fifth when trailing two sets to one.
“We have a longer list now of times where we can go back and see where we won this set or that match in these tight situations,” Kiracofe said. “Just give yourselves a chance and you can do it and this is a group that believes that they can.”