Sam Houston State quickly fell to third place in the Southland Conference after an uncharacteristic performance against league opponents Oral Roberts and Central Arkansas this weekend.
The Bearkats (11-3 SLC) were closing in on first place in league standings before anxious play and sluggish offense hindered SHSU’s run for their second consecutive conference title.
“I think we wanted it so bad [against ORU,]” senior setter Tayler Gray said. “We were up tight so bad we couldn’t play.”
After tying the first frame at 8-8, ORU ran off with 7 straight points before SHSU responded.
Senior middle blocker, Jessica Pancratz headed the charge for ORU with her powerful jump serve, which threw the Bearkats off of their game.
Bearkat outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson cited their errors as the weak point this weekend.
“We allowed them [ORU] to score more than 3 points in a row off us,” she said. “There’s really no excuse.”
The Golden Eagles’ defense solidified a brick wall on the net as SHSU struggled to land points. Sophomore middle blocker Jovana Poljasevic was the key force on the net for ORU, as she was responsible for four of the nine blocks during the match.
ORU’s defense managed to hold Wells-Gibson down through a majority of the match, however, the junior outside hitter still managed to hammer down 13 kills for the night.
SHSU tried to string together their own run but ORU’s momentum kept the Bearkats at bay allowing only four points for a 20-16 Golden Eagle lead.
The Bearkats couldn’t narrow ORU’s lead any further as attack errors plagued them for the next five points to give ORU the first set victory.
SHSU regained some life in the second set owning a 9-7 lead behind the arms of Wells-Gibson and sophomore outside hitter Carling Urben, along with ORU errors.
The Bearkats continued to push points, reaching a 6-point lead over the Golden Eagles, 18-12.
ORU’s offense matched SHSU late in the set to make the score tight at 24-23.
ORU picked up the next three points to win the set, 26-24 behind two momentous kills from Pancratz and sophomore right side hitter Sadie Schaffner, and a bad set from Gray.
The third set was tightly played with both teams tied 10-10 early in the set. ORU gained momentum off of five straight SHSU attack errors.
With the score set at 15-12, ORU ran off with the set, orchestrating several 2 and 3-point runs to put themselves on top of the Bearkats 24-17.
SHSU found excitement in an ORU attack error and a service ace from Gray, but they could not pull off enough points to come back.
Poljasevic hammered down the game-winning kill to take the set and match from the Bearkats.
“We were back on our heels by not being aggressive, which made it that much harder to compete,” Wells-Gibson said.
SHSU took the floor again Saturday afternoon against the Bears, trying to regroup from their Thursday night loss.
The Bearkats came out aggressively in the first set, stealing the first four points from UCA.
With momentum on SHSU’s side, they pulled together several 3-point runs to put them ahead of the Bears 10-6.
After that, UCA’s offense began to respond feeding off errors on SHSU’s side.
Tied at 16-16, Bearkat defense started to frustrate the Bears’ offense. Senior middle blocker Haley Neisler came up with two consecutive blocks against the Bears, allowing SHSU to reach a 21-17 lead.
SHSU took 4 of the next 7 points to take the first set victory.
Errors crept up on the Bearkats in the second set giving the Bears a majority of their points.
Down 7-12 in the second frame, SHSU took off with five straight points to even the score.
SHSU only managed to pick up two points out of the next seven, with UCA’s offense dominating the rest of the set.
“The amount of unforced errors is what lost the ORU and UCA game,” Wells-Gibson said.
The Bears were led by senior middle blocker Jessica Nagy who slammed down 16 kills for the Bears.
The Bearkats pulled within four points, 18-22, but couldn’t hold off UCA to pull out the victory.
The third and fourth sets errors continued to deflate the Bearkats. In the third set, UCA jumped out to an early 10-5 lead, pushing points to get to 20-11.
The Bears took the third set off of an SHSU attack error.
The fourth set ended on two SHSU attack errors, giving the Bears the match win.
Wells-Gibson believes the team just has to move on from this weekend.
“All we can do is learn from what happened, and grow by moving forward,” she said.