SHSU volleyball youth not the problem, communication struggles

The reigning 2012 Southland Conference champions have started their season 1-4, which has to be attributed to their young roster.

But as Sam Houston State’s volleyball team approach their conference run, youth isn’t the problem.

Factor in five new freshmen onto a team that graduated five seniors at the end of last season and you get this season’s Bearkats, young with potential.

The Bearkats are young in the sense of their experience.

With only high school and club team experience, four of the five freshmen are beginning their collegiate career starting in the playing rotation. The speed of the game increases and the language of the game evolves right along with it, hinging floor communication as a pillar of team success; a problem the Bearkats have struggled with early.

“Our communication has to improve,” head coach Brenda Gray told The Houstonian. “We have the pieces, we just have to come together.”

Another area the team struggles with is finishing.

Senior setter Tayler Gray explained that there were games where they’re ahead, and reach 22 points, but just don’t close up the game for the win.

“I don’t believe youth is an excuse, we just haven’t finished,” Gray said.

She’s right. Youth isn’t an excuse.

This is where the inexperience at this level comes into play, communication problems on the floor has kept them from finishing in some games. Volleyball is a game that builds on momentum. One or two mistakes can quickly snowball if players aren’t careful. With a crippled fashion of communication, a team can have a five or ten point lead that can be erased by mistakes.

However, it seems that Gray is fixing these problems because they were not apparent at the Sam Houston Invitational last weekend. The Bearkats posted a 2-1 record at the tournament, as they lost their last match to Washington State Saturday evening.

Freshmen Breanna Homer and Shelby Genung had solid performances last weekend and will be strong players in the seasons to come.

The best thing about teams that are young is that the same group of athletes can mature in the game and improve together with time.

But Gray explained at the beginning of the season that it wouldn’t take her a year to turn things around. SHSU was the runner-up team in their invitational, landing Tayler Gray and Breanna Homer on the All-Tournament team.

The Sam Houston Invitational was the last chance the Bearkats got to evaluate themselves in-depth before conference play starts.

“We’ve really improved. We come together more and are playing as a team,” freshman middle blocker Shelby Genung said.

Youth in itself is not a crutch that Bearkat volleyball is leaning on, and it shouldn’t be. It’s the lack of communication within the team causing problems.

They have younger players who don’t have as much experience, but the talent is definitely there. It takes time to fit five new players into different rotations. Then they have to grow accustomed to people they play beside. Those types of things have to develop.

If the Sam Houston Invitational was the product of their development to continue to fix communication, the Bearkats will be strong contenders in the Southland Conference this season.

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