LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The following is a news release from McNeese State.
The Cowgirls will host Northwestern State, the 2013 Southland Conference volleyball champion, in its conference opener at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The match is tabbed as "Cowboy Luau" night and fans are encouraged to wear either beach gear or Hawaiian attire to the match. Admission is free for all home matches, courtesy of the American Press.
The Cowgirls (9-5) were picked to finish tied for 6th by the sports information directors and 8th by the coaches in the preseason polls. Northwestern State was picked to finish in second place in both polls behind Central Arkansas.
"It's good to come back home open up conference play," said head coach Ashleigh Fitzgerald. "We are expecting a real dog fight from a team that beat us up pretty good at the Southland Conference Tournament last year. Northwestern State would have a better record heading into the weekend had they not had some injuries."
McNeese enters the weekend in a two-match losing streak after falling in straight sets to Oral Roberts and Tulsa at the Tulsa Golden Hurricane Classic last weekend.
As a team, McNeese leads the conference with 105 service aces and is second with a .203 hitting percent.
Junior Malina Sanchez continues to lead McNeese, the Southland Conference and ranks second in the nation in service aces with 38. Sanchez also leads the team with 154 kills. McNeese has three players ranked in the top 10 in hitting percent in the SLC. Rachel Cagnina ranks third with a .302 percent, Kelly Graham ranks fifth with a .265, and Amber Fryer has a .247 hitting percent.
Sophomore Chrysta Stuart is the teams leading blocker with 44 and junior Kimberlyn Patterson has a team-high 204 digs.
Northwestern State (3-11) has played a tough non-conference schedule but has picked up wins over #15 Missouri, Mississippi Valley State and Southern. The Lady Demons will enter the weekend on a nine-match losing streak and are coming off a 3-2 loss at Auburn.
The Lady Demons lead the league in blocks (126) and digs (977) and have the league's top blocker in Glynna Johnson and the assist's leader in Keelie Arneson. Johnson has 67 blocks on the season while Arneson has 227 assists.