Bearkat volleyball closing in on second Southland Conference title

Sam Houston State volleyball is nipping at the heels of league leader Central Arkansas in the 2013 Southland Conference race after two victories over the weekend.

The Bearkats picked up two road games against Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State, seating them alone in second place half a game behind the Bears.

Senior middle blocker Haley Neisler believes focusing on individual game aspects has strengthened team play.

“We simplified the game and stayed focused on one point at a time,” she said.

SHSU pulled out the win against NSU in four sets on Friday claiming 25-22, 23-25, 25-14, and 25-11.

Junior outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson gave her season-best performance against the Demons with 23 kills.Freshman middle blocker Shelby Genung and junior outside hitter Krista Koopmann chipped in 9 and 6 kills, respectively.

The first set was competitive with six ties and three lead changes. Down 21-18, SHSU strung together a 6-point run to close in on set point. An NSU service error gave the Bearkats the final point for the win.

The second set eluded the Bearkats with the sticking point being the middle of the set. NSU erased SHSU’s 17-15 lead by pulling together their own 5-point run and claiming a 20-18 lead.

Three attack errors on the Bearkats and a Demon service ace boosted NSU’s momentum.

With a fired up Demons’ offense taking the final five points of the set, both ball clubs were tied one set apiece.

The third and fourth sets, however, the Bearkats came out ready to kill.

The only time SHSU trailed the Demons was at the beginning of the third set, 2-0. After that, the Bearkats set the tone.

The power of Wells-Gibson, Genung, and Koopmann pushed the Bearkats’ offense forward. The trio accounted for the first six-point run of the set, allowing them to jump out to a 7-2 lead.

NSU’s service and attack errors in combination with SHSU’s strong offense allowed them to reach a comfortable lead of 16-5.

The Demons orchestrated another six points to make the score 18-11, but the Bearkats pulled out the last seven points to take the frame.

By the fourth set, the Bearkats had thrown NSU off of their game as they quickly got out to an 11-3 lead.

The Demons tried to put a run together, but more service and attack errors sealed their fate as they dropped the final set 25-11.

The Bearkat defense was a strong force in this game with Neisler shutting the net down on seven blocks. Freshmen Breanna Homer and Claire Kilpatrick had the back line covered, combining for 37 digs for the afternoon match.

Senior setter Tayler Gray believed the match was a test for the team.

The Bearkats set the stage to their weekend performance ousting SFA Thursday in Nacogdoches.

SFA struggled to contain SHSU’s offensive strength causing them to fall 25-20 for the first set with the second and third sets closer as they saw 11 ties and five lead changes.

Wells-Gibson led the charge for SHSU Thursday night, slamming down 17 kills on the Lumberjacks.

Senior outside hitter Lauren Bohlen totaled 8 kills for the evening match, adding insurance to Wells-Gibson’s 17.

SFA strung together several five-point campaigns in the second and third sets to lead SHSU 7-2 and 10-7.

At the end of the second set, Wells-Gibson and Genung sparked a late set string of points. With the score tied at 23-23, Wells-Gibson connected on Gray’s set to claim match point. Genung then pulled off a service ace, winning the frame for the Bearkats.

The Lumberjacks pulled together several runs in the third set where they found themselves leading the Bearkats 17-12.

SHSU rallied back behind the arm of Wells-Gibson attack to take advantage of SFA’s service errors.

The Bearkats ran away with the match with 6-points, setting the frame at 23-20. SHSU closed the set on a Wells-Gibson kill and an attack error on SFA to pull out the victory.

Gray explained that their mindset has been about having fun and focusing on their own game.

“For ORU and UCA, we will just familiarize ourselves with their tendencies,” she said. “We’ll just focus on our side and come out and compete.”

This week begins a four-game home stand for the Bearkats, starting off with Oral Roberts on Thursday at Johnson Coliseum with the first serve set for 7 p.m.

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