In what could have been a huge upset on their home court, the Sam Houston State volleyball team came up short as they hosted the conference-leading Lumberjacks and attempted to topple the only undefeated team in the Southland-West.
The Bearkats (9-10, 3-4 SLC) refused to go quickly, forcing Stephen F. Austin (17-5, 7-0 SLC) to four sets before dropping the match 30-27 27-30 30-16 30-15.
“We played really tough. Obviously, they are our rivals and the whole team got their adrenaline up,” SHSU assistant coach Joe Lind said. “It just seemed like we ran out of gas. I think SFA just got sick of playing us close. Once they got up close, they stepped it up a level. They had a solid defense and it frustrated our hitters. We just couldn’t get our passes down or our swings up.”
In the first set, Stephen F. Austin found itself up against a Bearkat team desperate for a victory and determined to give the Lumberjacks more than just an easy win. Both teams went point-for-point throughout the set, and after five ties and three lead changes, the Bearkats took the 15-10 lead, which they held until the Lumberjacks finally tied the score at 25 and went for the 30-27 win.
The second set revealed a rejuvenated Sam Houston State team, as the Bearkats jumped out to an early 10-4 lead that they would hold throughout the set. The Lumberjacks never fully recovered from the Bearkats’ initial offensive blow and Sam Houston State took the set 30-27 to tie the match at one game apiece.
“I thought the girls played really well; we were right in it the whole time,” Lind said. “SFA is at the top of the conference for a reason.”
After the teams returned from the locker room, the Bearkats were unable to overcome the Lumberjacks’ offensive assault and dropped the final two sets 30-16 30-15.
Cynthia Yarotsky led the team in kills with 12, followed by Launa McClung with 10 and Brittanie Wallace with 8. Yarotsky also took top dig honors with 21, followed by Megan McNamara and Megan Kuehler with 20 apiece. McNamara also led in assists with 31.
With the loss, the Bearkats drop to 3-4 in conference play for their third straight conference loss this season, their longest losing streak of the year.
“It seemed like we ran out of gas. We’ve been struggling lately, but in our last three games, we played the top three teams in the conference,” Lind said. “I think the team realizes we’ve been playing tough matches. We just have to keep playing every point and finish each game.”
In their last three games, the Bearkats have dropped matches against third-place Texas State (12-7, 5-2 SLC), second-place Texas-Arlington (13-7, 6-1 SLC) and first-place Stephen F. Austin.
This Tuesday, Sam Houston State begins a four-game road trip with a match against Texas A&M in College Station. The Aggies (14-6, 4-6) are currently sitting near the middle of the Big XII standings in seventh place behind Iowa State and Missouri.
The Bearkats will resume conference play Friday at Southeastern Louisiana, followed by a Saturday match at Nicholls State. Southeastern Louisiana (8-10, 0-7 SLC) is still looking for its first conference win of the season, while Nicholls State (8-15, 2-5 SLC) sits in fifth place in the SLC-East.
“A&M will be tough – they are not at the top of the Big XII by any means, but they are in there for a reason,” Lind said. “We just need to play our game and not worry about them. This week, we will definitely be striving for wins, and that should be very attainable. We just have to be ready to play every match and play every game all the way through.”