Kats start season undefeated

Bearkat volleyball team ran the table this weekend as Sam Houston State tasted perfection en route to winning the Comfort Suites/SHSU Invitational. The Bearkats finished 4-0 in the tournament, marking SHSU’s first tournament championship since winning the title in the UConn Invitational in 2002.

Friday afternoon, when the Bearkats took on the Southern Utah State Thunderbirds in a five-set nail biter, SHSU took a commanding two set lead after winning two sets by a combined eight points. The Thunderbirds stole the third set 32-30, and won again 25-19 in the fourth set to tie the series at two apiece. The Bearkats were determined to open the tournament with a victory and dominated the fifth set 15-7 to take the first match of the tournament. Carli Kolbe led the Kats with 16 kills, assisted by Anna Ferguson’s 14 and 10 from Kelli Stewart.

“We had a lot of energy and played good defense to take the first match,” said freshman libero Jamie Haas. “Once we got out all the first-game jitters, it went pretty smoothly.”

The Bearkats took on the University of Texas-Pan American Broncos Friday night. Throughout all four sets it was clear then the Bearkats were the better team. After taking the first set 25-13, Sam Houston State stumbled in the second set with 11 errors and lost 21-25. The Bearkats fought back in the next two sets to take back-to-back 25-20 victories to defeat the Broncos three sets to one. Led by Kolbe’s 17 kills, paired with Ferguson’s 11 and Kim Black’s 10, the Bearkats ended Friday night with a 2-0 record to start the tournament.

“We got off to a really good start tonight,” said freshman outside hitter Kelli Stewart. “We’re going to rest up for tomorrow and build on this 2-0 record.”

SHSU came out with the same intensity on Saturday morning and began the day by facing the Delaware State Hornets, who were 0-2 following Friday’s matches. The Bearkats’ momentum carried over into Saturday, when they came out and dominated the Hornets through three sets. Kolbe’s 17 kills and Stewart’s 10 led the Bearkats to victory, improving their record to 3-0.

“Whenever we were down, we would pick it up and take control,” said senior middle blocker Anna Ferguson. “We played hard and showed a lot of fight out there.”

The finale met the tournament’s two undefeated teams: SHSU and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. The Cajuns, also undefeated at 3-0, came out with high energy to take a quick 15-10 lead in the first set. The Bearkats matched the tempo and fought back to overcome the deficit and win the first set 25-23. The Bearkats again found themselves trailing the Cajuns 14-10 to begin the second set. Once again, the Bearkats took control of the game and fought back to take an 18-17 lead, which in turn led to a 25-22 victory.

After finding themselves in an ideal scenario, the Bearkats fell apart. Louisiana-Lafayette left the locker room with intensity and determination, and the Bearkats fell to an early 2-11 deficit as the Cajuns stormed onto the court as a new team. The Bearkats could not catch up to the fast paced Cajuns and lost the set 16-25. The intensity continued into the next set and the Cajuns again took a commanding 10-1 lead. The deficit was too much for the Bearkats to overcome and they again found themselves on the losing end, 13-25, in the fourth set.

With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats fought to gain back momentum in a match that they had all but won in the beginning. After taking a 4-3 lead, the Bearkats led throughout the set to win the match and the tournament title with a 15-11 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Kolbe’s 16 kills led the Bearkats to victory, with help from Ferguson’s 14 kills and Jamie Haas’ 13 digs.

“At first, we played with a lot of inconsistency, and it was like a roller coaster ride,” said sophomore outside hitter Carli Kolbe. “But we fought through it. We have a lot of depth this year, a good mix of new and experienced players. I’m excited for what this year has in store.”

The 2009 Bearkats volleyball team has gotten off to a great start, winning this tournament with relative ease. Kolbe, Stewart, and Ferguson all made the all-tournament team, with Ferguson winning “Most Valuable Player” for the event.

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