Northwestern State volleyball suffered three losses this weekend during the Rebel Classic in Oxford, Mississippi. With a tough schedule ahead, the team is looking to improve on the way to conference play.
Demon volleyball competed against the University of Mississippi “Ole Miss,” Mercer University and Austin Peay State University; they finished 0-3, 1-3, and 2-3, respectively. Their overall game record is 3-7.
The Demons have only played against regional teams so far this season. Head Coach Sean Kiracofe recognizes the talent of competitors within the region, which he said makes for a challenging schedule against strong opponents. He emphasizes the need to always fight for every point on the scoreboard.
“I think [our problems come from] the frustration level,” he said. “We need to be able to keep fighting point for point, set for set, and not give up.”
Kiracofe understands evolving as a team is a continual process, including overcoming mental obstacles such as players thinking sole responsibility is on them to win the match. The hope is that if difficult situations arise again, the team will react and “do something better with the ball.” He said they create similar conditions in practice to prepare for this.
Junior outside hitter Reagan Rogers reflected on the need to bounce back from losses.
“We try to learn from every loss we have,” she said. “If it is a tough match, we figure out what we need to do to get a win the next time around.”
Certain players stood out during the tournament despite losses.
Libero Channing Burleson had 52 digs over the weekend; a season high of 22 digs came from the match against Austin Peay alone. She is now nearing the 1,000 dig career mark and only in her sophomore season.
“By the end of her career, we expect her to be pushing for 2,000 [digs],” Kiracofe said.
Freshman outside hitter Hannah Brister did not play her usual position this weekend, instead playing right side, but that did not stop her from racking up 25 kills and 10 blocks. She saw her first double-digit kill count against Austin Peay with 14 kills and a .619 hitting percentage.
Kiracofe said he was happy about her performance.
“In her first really full-time start as a freshman, in a different position, she scored a lot of points for us. She produced a lot in some tough situations,” Kiracofe explained. “She was called on a lot and we were happy about that.”
Middle blockers Madeline Drake and Kourtney Seaton also had an impressive weekend. Their combined statistics from the three games were 44 blocks and 23 kills. Drake reached a season-high six block assists against Mercer.
Losses aside, the team is looking forward to start competing against Southland Conference rivals.
“We [now] know for conference how we need to finish games and keep competing all the time,” Rogers said.
Kiracofe said he is not letting the losses affect him too much either.
“We are growing as a team,” he said. “I don’t think there is one thing we can do to turn it around just because of the level of competition right now, but we look at it as if that is preparing us for conference.”
“So personally, I can take a step [back] as far as a loss as long as it is two steps forward for conference.”
The team will visit New Orleans Sept. 15-16 to compete in the Tulane Invitational, their last regional matches before conference play begins Sept. 21 against Lamar University.
The Lady Demon volleyball schedule can be found at nsudemons.com