Sam Houston State went undefeated in their annual volleyball invitational tournament this weekend to capture the tournament championship.
The Bearkats managed to pull off the wins after substitutes were made early in the tournament due to anxious and sluggish play. SHSU saw its freshman step up when needed to overcome early defeats.
“Our freshman class this year has been the most game ready of any class in recent years,” assistant coach Kim Black said. “All three freshmen are key contributors to the team and are a reason for our strong start this weekend.”
Freshman outside hitter Brooke White was in the starting lineup against California State University – Bakersfield, picking up three kills early in the first set.
“Brooke has most definitely added more offensive power to our team that we did not have last year,” volunteer assistant Tayler Gray said.
CSUB senior outside hitters Molly O’Hagan and Danika Youngblood were the leading scorers for the Roadrunners. Both players attacked the ball from both the front and back row making it difficult for SHSU to stop them.
CSUB gave SHSU a run for their money as they rallied point for point taking their first lead 20-19.
With the score tied 24-24, the Roadrunners’ senior libero Eryn Riley missed a critical serve that gave SHSU a one point advantage. Sophomore setter Michelle Griffith fed All-Southland Conference senior outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson the ball, a set that ended in SHSU taking the first set 26-24.
Wells-Gibson led the Bearkats to an exciting victory over CSUB with 18 kills.
White finished second with 11 kills but led the team in service aces with three.
“I think she has a huge impact,” sophomore setter Michelle Griffith said. “We are always looking to get better, so with Brooke coming in, it will be huge for us because not only can she put a ball away, but she can play defense all the way around and is very confident for a freshman.”
The Bearkats opened the tournament facing University of Louisiana at Monroe with a 3-0 victory.
Although impressions from the scoreboard seem as if SHSU swept ULM, first game jitters caused uncharacteristic errors. Miscommunication and service mistakes were SHSU’s main faults in the first set.
Freshman defensive specialist Sarah Craneck came in the game and totaled six digs and was the spark the Bearkats needed to come back from their 12-4 deficit in the second set.
“Number nine Craneck has a voice, so she brings the communication part to the team,” Wells-Gibson said. “She especially did her part.”
Bearkats also won matches against Mississippi State and University of Texas-Pan American.
Returning sophomores middle blocker Shelby Genung, outside hitter Breanna Homer and setter Michelle Griffith played their roles and did not go unnoticed.
Genung and Griffith were named to the All-Tournament Team, and Wells-Gibson was named the Most Valuable Player.
The Bearkats will take the court again Friday at the Denver Invitational.