Bearkats focus to continue conference win streak

The defending Southland Conference champions are looking to improve on their 3-0 start in conference play this week as they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist on Thursday at Johnson Coliseum.

Sam Houston State is following a 2-0 weekend outing against conference opponents Nicholls State and McNeese State coming into the midweek matchup.

TAMU-CC will drive in looking to improve on their four game win streak, and 2-0 in SLC play.

The Islanders are led by senior setter Logen Bourque, sophomore outside hitter Ivy Baresh and junior outside hitter Brianna Brink. Against SLC rivals, Baresh led the Islanders’ offense with 12 kills to defeat McNeese State. Brink dominated the HBU match with 13 kills while Bourque dished out her own game-high of 35 assists against the Huskies.

Although the Islanders have 12 returning players from 2012, SHSU head coach Brenda Gray said she doesn’t know what to expect from the veteran squad.

Both teams have a strong arsenal of offensive firepower from the outside hitters including SHSU junior Deveney Wells-Gibson.

Wells-Gibson’s strong offensive arm has earned her early season notoriety, ranked third in the conference averaging 4.44 kills per set

Baresh leads the Islanders with 3.5 kills per set this season, earning 12th in conference rankings for kills.

Defensively, the Islanders are led by sophomore libero Hailey King who has totaled 172 digs for the season. Freshman libero Breanna Homer anchors the Bearkat defense with 148 digs for the season.

Approaching Thursday’s matchup, both Wells-Gibson and setter Tayler Gray said the week’s practice has carried momentum from McNeese State.

“We have had great intensity this whole week, and we are really focusing on making ourselves better,” Tayler Gray said. “We don’t ever think about our record, we just focus on one game at a time.”

The Bearkats have defeated the Islanders in both matches against the Islanders in 2012.

SHSU will take on Southland Conference newcomer HBU on Saturday. The Huskies are 5-8 overall, and 0-1 in conference play. HBU has showcased a strong offensive presence in junior middle blocker Madeline Gaffney who has led HBU with 119 kills on the season.

The Huskies defeated the Bearkats in five games in 2011, while the Bearkats topped them in three games in 2012.

SHSU will take on TAMU-CC at 7 p.m. on Thursday, and Houston Baptist at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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