LAKE CHARLES – Caiti O'Connell and Stacey DiFrancesco led the red-hot Northwestern State volleyball team to its fifth straight win Saturday afternoon as the Lady Demons swept the Cowgirls of McNeese State, 3-0, in a Southland Conference contest at Memorial Gym.
The 25-20, 25-17, 25-18 victory was the third straight by NSU in conference play and the eighth overall in nine matches. It improves the Lady Demons' record to 11-5 overall and 3-1 in Southland Conference play while MSU drops to 3-12, 0-4.
Northwestern will play Southland preseason favorites Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts at home in Prather Coliseum next week, beginning Thursday at 7 against UCA.
The Lady Demons needed only 1:19 to post their sweep of the Cowgirls.
"I thought we passed really well today," said Lady Demon co-head coach Hugh Hernesman. "Our serve receive was very good, which allowed us to run a lot of options.
"If you look at how our middles scored, Vanessa hitting .500 and Glynna hitting .700, those are very good numbers. When we can pass well enough to get them the ball it gives our outsides a lot of good looks."
O'Connell had her third double-figure kill performance of the week with a match-high 11. DiFrancesco was second on the team with 10 kills and also recorded nine digs.
Mackenzie Neely added nine kills, two service aces and four blocks.
Emily Sweet led everyone in the match with 37 assists.
Defensively, Keelie Arneson dug up 10 balls while also tacking on five assists and three aces.
A kill by O'Connell gave the Lady Demons a 1-0 lead to start the match. An NSU service error allowed McNeese to take control for a few points. DiFrancesco batted down a kill at the 3-1 mark and sparked a 6-0 run for the Lady Demons.
The Cowgirls were able to trim their deficit to two after a 5-0 run put the score at 15-13.
Northwestern State fought back and was able to maintain momentum through the rest of the game, winning 25-20.
The Lady Demons dominated in the second set, trailing only once at the 1-0 mark. A series of MSU attack errors gave NSU an early 4-1 lead.
McNeese attempted regain the lead, coming within one at 9-8, but could not manage as Northwestern State answered with a 4-0 run.
A 5-0 streak near the end of the set all but sealed the deal for NSU as the score read 22-14. The Lady Demons took the set 25-17.
The Cowgirls kept it close early in the third set with three ties and two lead changes before the five points mark.
NSU pulled away with a 10-3 run, resulting in a 16-8 Lady Demon lead.
McNeese was not able to make a comeback and Northwestern State won the set 25-18.
"We have two very strong opponents next week with Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts," said Hernesman. "We are excited to be back in our gym, where the crowd was great at our last two home matches so we are hoping for that to continue."
After next Thursday's home match against UCA, the Lady Demons play host to Oral Roberts on Saturday afternoon.