McNeese volleyball let its Southland Conference match against Northwestern State slip away here Thursday night in a thrilling 3-2 (25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 16-25, 18-20) five set loss that that kept fans on the edge of their seat in a match that consisted of 35 ties and 11 lead changes.
McNeese dropped to 12-10 overall and 4-4 in league play with the loss while the NW State improved to 9-12 overall and 4-2 in conference action. The Cowgirls will return home Saturday to host Central Arkansas in a 12:30 p.m. match.
Keegan Nelms led McNeese with 14 kills while Rae Myers and Katelyn Elliott both added nine. Angela McGownd picked up 21 digs while Adison Giambrone dished out 26 assists and Alexandra Aguilera was credited with 23. Allison Lippert picked up six blocks while Ebony Lewis had five.
Northwestern State had three players with double figure kills and five with 210 or more digs. Reagan Rogers led the Lady Demons with 23 kills and Channing Burleson led all players with 28 digs. Setter Kathryn Wristen was credited with 61 assists on the night to lead all players.
The Cowgirls jumped out to a 2-0 overall lead by taking the first two sets. After trailing 13-11 in the first set, McNeese got kills from Nelms and Madison Fontenot and took advantage of three Demon errors to take a 16-13 lead. The Cowgirls extended their lead to 18-14 but the potent NW State offense came back to tie the set at 18 all on a Cowgirl error, a service ace and two kills by Hannah Brister. The set would tie up at 19 all before McNeese would outscore NW State 6-1 the rest of the way to take the opening set.
The second set was nearly identical to the first in which both teams traded points early on both teams trading the lead. With McNeese holding an 18-15 lead, NW State scored three straight points to even the score at 18 all. The Cowgirls retook the lead on a Demon error and continue to hold a slim 23-22 lead following a Rogers kill. A service error by Rogers gave McNeese a 24-22 lead then Nelms ended the set with a kill for a 25-22 McNeese win.
With their backs against the wall, Northwestern State responded in a big way following intermission. The Lady Demons came out in the third set and took the lead from the opening serve and never looked back, leading by as many as seven points during the match on its way to a 25-19 win.
The fourth set was tight until midway through the set when the Lady Demons capitalized on a few Cowgirl errors and an Alexis Warren kill to take a 15-12 lead. After a kill by Nelms, NW State scored six straight points behind the serve of Megan Lohmiller and three straight kills by Warren to extend their lead to 21-13 before going on to win the fourth set 25-16 to send the match to a deciding fifth set.
The Lady Demons’ serving game was evident in the fifth set as they jumped out to a 5-1 lead with three points coming off one service ace by Rogers and two by Madeline Drake. McNeese settled down and would cut the lead to 9-8 on back-to-back kills by Elliott and a Lady Demon error.
A kill by Nelms brought McNeese to within one point (10-9) then got a huge service ace by McGownd to tie the set. Both teams would make outstanding and point saving digs on both sides of the net that would continue long rallies. The fifth set was like a heavy weight fight, it was a matter of who would make the plays as to who would win the set.
The fifth set normally ends when one team reaches 15 points first but these two teams battled past that. Northwestern State took a 19-18 lead on a Cowgirl service error before a huge block assist in the middle from Drake and Brister ended the match with a 20-18 NW State fifth set victory.
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