After losing starting middle blocker Anna Ferguson to a season-ending ACL injury and emerging from the first two weeks of play with a 3-4 record, the Sam Houston State volleyball team has been forced to find a new groove as the Bearkats travel to Fort Worth for the Texas Christian University Invitational Friday and Saturday.
The first few weeks of the season were spent trying out different players on the court before establishing a definite line-up, according to head coach Brenda Gray. But with the blow of losing Ferguson at the net, the Kats are again shifting players and using the remaining weeks before conference to find their comfort zone on the court.
“We were way ahead [of where we were at this point last season] before we lost Anna, but now I’d say we’re at about the same point,” Gray said. “Now we’re just trying to fill the void in the middle position.”
The Bearkats opened the season Aug. 31 at home in the Domino’s Pizza Invitational where they finished with a 2-2 record, including victories over Texas- Pan American and Louisiana- Lafayette. Last weekend, the team traveled to Southern Methodist University in Dallas where they went 1-3 with a loss to Tulane and Mississippi and a victory over Prairie View A&M.
“I have mixed emotions about the pre-season. I’d love to be 7-0, but that’s not how it is,” Gray said. “In the first weekend, against Pan-American, I thought was it was up and down. We had so many new kids and we were trying to see what would work. Against Tulane, I thought we fought with them very hard. We played so much better than we had just four hours before. At SMU, we played hard and fought with Baylor, and in the game with Prairie View A&M, the whole team got in. But against Ole Miss, they just got us out of our system and we weren’t able to compete at the level I had expected.”
Senior Cynthia Yarotsky, who leads Sam Houston State in kills and digs, has become one of the Kats’ key players after amassing 92 kills, 94 digs and 12 blocks.
“I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the play of Cynthia. She has been extremely aggressive and positive with her younger teammates,” Gray said. “She’s taken on such a big role this season. She’s definitely the leader of the team.”
The play of Megan McNamara has also proved noteworthy as the junior completed a team-high 236 assists and 42 digs.
Despite carrying several veteran starters into the 2007 season, this year the Bearkats have brought several new faces to the court with four freshmen slated to claim starting positions.
“I love the play of the new freshmen,” Gray said. “They are so fun and just so full of fire.”
The Bearkats are scheduled to travel to Fort Worth today for the TCU Invitational with their first game Friday against the Horned Frogs at 7 p.m. with Saturday games against Gonzaga and Alcorn State to follow at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.
“We just want to get comfortable with playing and get ready for conference,” Gray said. “We just need to get another tournament under our belt.”