The several hundred people who got a chance to witness yesterday's SFA/Northwestern State match really got a treat. Now, don't get me wrong. I wish SFA had been able to extend the level of play shown in the first set and a half throughout the entire match and pull out a big win on the final day of the regular season. In the end, the balance of NSU that I have talked with so many people about shone through and the Demons were able to secure a 3-1 victory.
Many times I've commented to other fans, coaches, our players and anyone else that will listen that I enjoy back row defense as much as any other part of the game. Well, yesterday might very well have been one of the best combined efforts by two back rows I have ever seen. The 5th Annual SFAVolleyBlog.net all-SLC teams are still in construction. They will (as always) be released here before the conference makes official All-SLC announcements later this week. I'll have say this, though.. liberos Keelie Arneson and OJ Olson put on an absolute clinic...just a lock down clinic... on digging up balls. You'd be hard pressed not to think we were watching the two best liberos in the conference. We're not talking about several dozen nice, right to target digs either... there were some balls absolutely blistered by hitters on both sides that the back rows dug up with perfection.
On the Northwestern State side, Arneson, Stacey DiFrancesco, Ashley Elrod and Emily Johnson all played wonderful defense. For us, Olson and Janet Hill were absolute digging machines. It was so awesome to see senior Amanda Rister put up huge dig numbers as well in her farewell match at Shelton Gym.
242 digs total in four sets! Olson set the SFA record for most digs EVER by a Ladyjack in a four set match. Now, that is saying something considering that the All-American Stephanie Figgers lines our record book for most of the back row statistics. Meanwhile, Arneson eclipsed her own record for the second time in becoming (again) NSU's all-time single season dig leader. When it was all said and done, Olson had 43 digs and Arneson 42 digs in the four set defensive war.
On Friday, before NSU practiced in Shelton Gym, I got a chance to sit down and have quite an extensive talk with Arneson and Co-Head Coach Hugh Hernesman. We cover a lot of ground in the interview you'll hear at the link below, so settle in and have a listen to both player and coach discuss the fantastic year that the Demons have had to this point.
Finally, I am working on a little surprise for my coverage of the Southland Conference tournament which starts this Friday. You'll have to wait for an announcement later in the week. As always, I am working on ways to cover SFA volleyball with more and more depth. SFA will be looking to pull an upset against #1 seed Central Arkansas. Northwestern State (#2) draws McNeese in their first round match up.
I'll be there all weekend covering every match and trying to talk with as many players and coaches as I can among all the excitement. The Dugan Wellness Center in Corpus Christi is one of facilities in the Southland I haven't been to before, so I am anxious to get to the island and see how this weekend goes.
Look for the next article to be my All-Conference picks post (late Monday or early Tuesday) and then a tournament preview article in the middle of the week. I'll get to Corpus Christi quite late on Thursday night, but I'll be fired up and ready to go with coverage Friday morning. SFA plays at 4:00 PM.
Click Here to listen to the interview with Keelie Arneson and Hugh Hernesman