Lady Demons fall to Nicholls in conference volleyball tournament

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HOUSTON – Northwestern State was unable to find the solution for the Nicholls attack in a 3-1 (25-23, 25-8, 23-25, 25-14) loss on Thursday afternoon in the Southland Conference Tournament.

Following an even opening set that fell in favor of the Colonels (11-16, 3-11), three straight sets with hitting percentages over .310 as a team were too much for the Lady Demons (11-19, 5-9) to overcome.

“We didn’t change much from our game plan after the match in Thibodaux,” head coach Sean Kiracofe said. “There was the switch into a 6-2, but the overall game plan didn’t change when we saw them in Natchitoches last Saturday. We just executed better.

“Nicholls did change some things and ran a few more crossing plays and brought their outsides inside which we didn’t read well. But ultimately when they went back to what we expected and saw over the last two matches, we couldn’t consistently do what we needed to which created the opportunities we saw a few days ago.”

The Colonels made the first run of the match with a 6-0 stretch early to take a 9-4 lead. After chipping away slightly a block from Jaylibeth Garcia-Rosa and Symone Wesley plus two kills from Addison McDermott brought the Lady Demons back within a point.

Nicholls stretched its lead back to six again, but NSU answered again and a Kate Idrogo kill and Haley Hoang ace once again made it a one-point game at 22-21. NSU had three opportunities to tie the match at that point, but each time Nicholls found the answer to maintain their edge, eventually securing the first-set win at 25-23.

The tide shifted dramatically in the second set, however.

The Colonels jumped ahead 7-2 early, full on the momentum from the first-set win, and did not slow down. Five kills, two aces and a block fueled the set-defining 11-2 run that for all intents and purposes put Nicholls ahead 2-0 in the match.

A match-best four blocks helped carry Nicholls’ match-low 10 kills with just one error in the second set.

With the season on the line, the Lady Demons produced a one-error set of their own in the third to extend the match to one more set.

After trading points to start the frame, Nicholls made the first run with a four-point burst on three kills and an ace to take a 15-10 lead. A kill from Breanna Burrell ended the run and began NSU’s push back towards the lead.

The ensuing 6-2 stretch for the Lady Demons, capped by kills from Addison McDermott and Wesley, brought NSU within a point, but the Colonels were the first to reach the 20-point mark a few serves later.

The Lady Demons got the next two points on a kill from Audrey Quesnel and an ace from Bryce Potter to even the match. After surrendering the lead back to Nicholls on an Emily Gauthreaux kill, NSU had a four-point burst of their own to reach set point.

A kill and ace from Quesnel and two solo blocks from Garcia-Rosa provided plenty of spark to extend the season and the match one set longer. The Colonels held off two set-point attempts, but Ashlyn Svoboda drilled one down the line for the winner after the next serve.

NSU had one of its most efficient offensive sets of the year hitting .417 with 16 kills and just one error, key production to stave off the 20-kill and .326 effort from the Colonels in that same set.

After another close beginning in the fourth, Nicholls created its first bit of space with a 5-1 burst to pull ahead 12-8. That swing would turn into a 15-3 stretch that included a 7-0 finish with five of the points coming on kills.

The Lady Demons got three points back in a row, but the hole was too great and a 3-0 answer from Nicholls ended the match.

Burrell finished the match with a team-leading 10 kills and Ragan Ward had a career-best 19 digs in route to her fourth double-double in the last five matches to close the season.

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