Old tactics are no more for Sam Houston State volleyball this season.
Being a relatively young team with some new faces on the roster, it is understandable that there is not a set starting lineup.
In the past years for the Bearkats, there has been a set starting six with two to three permanent substitution players who were added in the rotation.
From a spectator’s point of view, things may seem just fine on the court considering the Bearkats are on a winning streak and made history last week becoming undefeated at home for the entire season. But with so many new people, head coach Brenda Gray said she really does not know if she has a starting set six.
“It is odd, but good, but very different than teams before,” Gray said.
She confirmed that there is no division between starters and non-starters.
With the final matches of the regular season this week and the Southland Conference tournament approaching, the Bearkats are unsure of who is playing.
The slate is wiped clean the beginning of each week. Everyone starts on the same level playing field. Whoever works the hardest in practice will see the court during games, but this goes for all athletic teams. Prior to the matches, the Bearkats play six-on-six against each other in practice. Depending on which players produce the most points, generate the most power, have a positive attitude, and outsmart the other side will most likely find themselves playing in actual competitive matches.
What makes this team different from previous teams is that if one player is not having a spot-on game, there are a handful of others who can fill that void and pick up their slack.
This year the entire team is adaptable to all positions.
“It’s actually quite nice, because if one man is struggling, there are seven more girls on our team who can come in and get the job done,” senior outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson said.
Being a senior, Wells-Gibson has witnessed a lot of teammates come and go, and she has had the experience of playing with the 2012 SLC Championship team, which consisted of a regular lineup. Things have changed, she said. Now, instead of getting comfortable playing with the starters the whole season, she has learned the tendencies of everyone on the team.
“There are those I’m used to playing next to, but I have faith in every girl, simply because they work so hard,” Wells-Gibson said. “I know they are on the court not playing for themselves, but playing to benefit the team.”
At some point in the season, every player has earned playing time in a match.
Another difference is there are no freshman redshirting. All three freshman – Sarah Cranek, Jordyn Vaughn, Brooke White – have earned key roles in the lineup. Cranek will sometimes come in to serve a consistent jump floater and play defense. Vaughn has earned a starting position on the outside. White will either start or come in playing outside, defense, a little right side here and there; she is a six-rotation player like Wells-Gibson, opposite her.
The constant changes in the lineup can be an advantage. Wells-Gibson said it keeps the opponents on their toes and guessing.
“Beyond all the comparisons, it is a very good group to coach,” Gray said.
SHSU is currently ranked third in the SLC. They will head to Natchitoches, La. for the tournament Nov. 21.
Before though, the Bearkats must face Texas A&M- Corpus Christi today in Corpus Christi and then play Houston Baptist on Saturday in Houston.