Big fish in a big pond

Experience and leadership led the Bearkats’ to a 13-game winning streak in 2012 to claim the Southland Conference title. However, a fresh crop of young talent is looking to replicate the old guard.

Freshmen Shelby Genung and Breanna Homer have established themselves as powerful presences on the floor for the championship-caliber Bearkats.

Genung is positioned as one of Sam Houston State’s top middle blockers, while Homer anchors the defense as the starting libero – two positions that head coach Brenda Gray said aren’t easy to play as freshmen.

“[Homer] is in a position she hasn’t played,” Gray said. “It’s hard to come in as a true freshman middle blocker, but [Genung] is doing well. They’re holding their own.”

The pair have found their grooves within the defending Southland Conference champion team having stand-out performances this season. Homer’s strongest defensive game came against Houston Baptist, leading SHSU with 22 digs in their three-game sweep of the Huskies.

Homer has quickly risen to conference notoriety leading the SLC in service aces with 28 during her inaugural season. Homer explained that even though she’s made a position change, it isn’t much of an adjustment for her.

“I’ve always played all the way around the floor,” she said. “It’s not too big of a change.”

Genung brought the heat in the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi match as she sealed the net off with five block assists that night and contributing to SHSU’s lights-out defensive effort of 12 team blocks.

Despite their early season success, neither Homer nor Genung expected to have such major roles during their first year of Bearkat volleyball, they said.

“I was not expecting to play,” Homer said. “I was expecting to work hard in practice and support the team from the bench.”

Homer said she credits the team leadership as the key to their transition and success.

“We have great leaders on this team,” Homer said. “When we think we can’t go on, they’re just so positive and they really push us to be better.”

Genung said Gray’s coaching style has helped her transition from high school to collegiate volleyball.

“I was scared to play the first week, but now I’m mentally stronger,” she said. “Coach Gray really pushes us, and she makes you want to come in and get better [and] she makes us better because she’ll find our weaknesses, but then make it our strength.”

With the Bearkats graduating three seniors this year, Homer and Genung look forward to being the future leaders of the team.

“We really look up to them,” Homer said. “By senior year, we want to be leaders just like them.”

They look to help the team expand on its 6-0 SLC win streak as they face Incarnate Word on Thursday evening in San Antonio.

The Bearkats will finish up their three-game road swing Saturday at Abilene Christian before returning to Huntsville Oct. 17 to host the University of New Orleans.

“It’s exciting playing on a championship team,” Genung said. “It’s a new challenge.”

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