Bearkat perfect in conference play

Sam Houston State’s volleyball offensive duo of Deveney Wells-Gibson and Haley Neisler were the Bearkats top threat against Lamar University Saturday in Beaumont.

The Bearkats (9-6) extended their league record to 6-0, remaining at the top of the Southland Conference after defeating the Cardinals, 19-25, 25-21, 27-25 and 25-22. Saturday’s win keeps SHSU in the top seed of the league, tied with conference rival University of Central Arkansas.

The Cardinals peaked early against SHSU claiming the first set but were unable to stifle Wells-Gibson and Neisler the following three matches. LU became the first team to win a set against SHSU in conference play, breaking the 10-10 tie with a 15-9 run to take the first set.

The Cardinals maintained a fast tempo early in the second set with a 12-9 lead over the Bearkats before SHSU evened the board 15-15. Bearkat outside hitter Krista Koopman sparked the offense with two kills to start a 10-6 run for SHSU to take the set 25-21.

A seven-point lead was erased for SHSU in the third set as Lamar rallied from 10-17 and tied the game at 23-23. Back-to-back kills from outside hitter Lauren Bohlen and Neisler claimed the second set for SHSU.

SHSU rallied from a deficit again in the fourth set to win the match.

Senior setter Tayler Gray, teamed with freshman libero Breanna Homer for a total of 23 and 13 digs, respectively. Gray assisted on 50 of the Bearkats’ 56 kills.

“It was a battle,” Gray said. “Lamar came out ready to play. We had to make some adjustments, and we are just glad we came out with the victory.”

Wells-Gibson said there are aspects of the game that need improvement. But despite issues on the floor, she’s happy with her team’s performance.

“We came out way too slow against Lamar,” she said. “We had to fight fire with fire and that’s what we did. I can definitely say we handled business.”

SHSU will travel to San Antonio to suit up against the University of Incarnate Word. UIW will come into the matchup 2-4 in league play seated in the eighth spot with a 6-8 overall season record.

The Cardinals’ strength comes from freshman and sophomore outside hitters Shaina Garza and Angelique Vidaurri.

Garza led the Cardinals with 16 kills on 47 attempts for the night, with Vidaurri’s 15 kills for insurance.

The first serve is set for 7 p.m.

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