Bearkats earn first round rematch against Islanders in Southland Conference tournament

The Bearkats will walk into the Southland Conference tournament touting the fourth seed after wrapping up regular-season play finishing 1-1 against Houston Baptist and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

But as the Bearkats square off for a rematch against the Islanders in the first round of the tournament, senior setter Tayler Gray said she’s expecting a different outcome compared to Saturday’s loss.

“We were up in all three games [against TAMU-CC],” she said. “Then we would spot them four or five points and we just can’t do that.”

Although the Bearkats dominated the floor in three sets against HBU Thursday, they couldn’t carry their momentum as the Islanders won in three straight sets in Corpus Christi.

Junior right side hitter Ashley Phelps dominated the Islanders offense, laying down 12 kills against the Bearkat defense.

Yet SHSU maintained offensive pressure.

Both ballclubs were aggressive early tied at 8-8 in the first set, trading points through the 11th point. TAMU-CC’s offense sparked on three consecutive kills from junior outside hitter Brianna Brink.

SHSU retaliated behind the arms of outside hitter Lauren Bohlen and middle blocker Haley Neisler, setting the score at 16-17.

Neisler said Saturday’s matchup allowed the Bearkats to study the Islanders tendencies to see where they were able to gain momentum.

“We’re going to focus on the things that make us strong,” she said. “We’re looking forward to play [TAMU-CC] again right away because we know what they are capable of.”

After two more kills from Bohlen and Deveney Wells-Gibson, SHSU was up 21-20, but several errors committed by the Bearkats gave the Islanders the first set victory.

TAMU-CC came out vicious in the second set, putting considerable distance between them and SHSU with a 15-5 score.

Errors plagued the Bearkats for the next four points as they tried to get their offense rolling, but the Islanders came up with a big block against Bohlen, reducing the effort to a sputter.

Momentum swung in SHSU’s favor after that as they went on a 12-4 run with the help of a big block from Gray, followed by one from freshman middle blocker Shelby Genung, and errors committed by the Islanders.

SHSU pulled within seven points, 24-17, but couldn’t hold TAMU-CC off long enough to steal the set.

The third set was tight with the ballclubs being tied at 10-10 toward the middle of the third set.

SHSU got some energy going as they pulled off four consecutive points

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