The SHSU volleyball team will hit the road this weekend with high hopes of becoming Playoff Contenders

The Bearkat volleyball team is looking to improve its record this weekend with two tough matches scheduled against Lamar and McNeese.Friday night the Ladykats will square off with the Lamar at 7 p.m. in Beaumont. The Cardinals are in second place behind UTArlington.Third place McNeese will host SHSU Saturday at 4 p.m. in Lake Charles, La.There is no doubt that these two matches are critical for the LadyKats, who are hanging on to fifth place. A win either night could get the team one step closer to securing a spot in the conference tournament, and that is exactly what assistant coach Traci Bendele is hoping.”Right now, we’re in fifth, so if we win both of them, that would be awesome,” she said. “That would secure our position in fifth or maybe even move us up because they are two top teams. We have to at least split.”The Kats suffered a loss to both Lamar and McNeese in the first round of conference play due to unforced errors and what Bendele called “a lack of motivation.” With improvements having been made, the team is looking to capitalize.”Since we’re young, we might have been a little intimidated because those two teams were undefeated,” Bendele said. “But now that we’ve seen them, we know we can hang with them. Southeastern and UTSA are both at the bottom (in the conference), and they’ve gone at least four games with both those teams. It’s instilled more motivation and confidence that we can beat these teams.” Leading the Cardinal team in kills is Natalie Sarver, who will be a force for the Kats Friday night. Fortunately for SHSU, Sarver’s technique is similar to Carrie Sartain’s, the LadyKats’ kill leader. Defending Sarver will be a challenge, but Bendele is confident the team will be successful.”We know that she’s the girl we’ve got to focus on and it would be ideal to shut her out of the game,” Bendele said. “Are we doing anything different? No, because she’s exactly like Carrie Sartain. And if we can defend Carrie Sartain on our own team, then we can defend Natalie Sarver.”With that in mind, Sartain knows Lamar and McNeese will both be looking to shut down her hitting game this weekend. “It’s hard because every time I go up, I know I have people who’ve been watching film on me and know my shots,” Sartain said. “They know what I’m going to do with the ball most of the time. I just have to go up strong and mix up my shots, swing, and find their weaknesses, which is really hard.”Throughout the season, many mistakes for the LadyKats have proven to be mental. Coming off an emotional loss to Northwestern, the Kats have adopted a new attitude under the pressure, which just might lead the team to a sweep this weekend.”We’re just going out there and looking at it like we have three weeks left,” Sartain said. “We can either go out and play strong and win games, or we can give up after that hard loss last week.”Freshman Chrissy Engle has a unique outlook on how to handle the pressure. “Let me show you,” she said as she flexed her bicep. “Just kidding. I like the pressure. I think it makes me a better person. If I was just out there playing and we were killing everybody, that would be no fun. I think we can beat these guys. I know we can.”

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