Kats Dominate UCA at Home in Three Sets

One day of rest, and one day of preparation, served no problem for the Sam Houston State volleyball team, as they swept the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears in three sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-23) on Saturday afternoon.

“We really wanted to take care of business this weekend,” head coach Brenda Gray said. “We knew we were home, we knew that each opponent would bring their A-game against us.”

Coming off from a tough Southland Conference win over Northwestern State on Thursday, the Bearkats were in full attack mode to start their match against the Sugar Bears. The team played with a ton of energy right out of the gate, as they got out to an early 7-2 lead in the first set.

Much like NWSU on Thursday, UCA wouldn’t surrender easily. The Sugar Bears went on a 6-2 run to close the deficit, making the score 10-8. Junior outside hitter Brooke White flipped the momentum when she registered one of SHSU’s 10 blocks on the day. The Bearkats won set one 25-18 after a net blunder from UCA.

The Sugar Bears got a little more comfortable with the environment of the Health and Kinesiology Center in the second set. The two teams switched sides, and after the first 14 points, the teams were tied at seven. SHSU would get out to a 13-8 lead, before UCA called a timeout. The Bearkats took the second set by a score of 25-30. Junior outside hitter Jordyn Vaughn finished the set with a kill.

Vaughn led the team in kills with 12, followed by White with 11. Senior setter Michelle Griffith led the way on the assisting end for the Bearkats with 38. She also had a team-high 8 digs.

“I’ve had a couple of shaky games these past two weeks and I just knew that I prepared for it, I watched a lot of film, I listened to coach which is a new one, but it came together today,” Vaughn said. “The energy was amazing even before the match. I had no doubt we would win.”

The third set was a new chapter for the Sugar Bears, as their backs were against the wall in the win-or-go home set. SHSU fell behind in a set for the first time in the entire match when they found themselves trailing 3-1 early on.

“They [UCA] started serving with a lot more force and started pushing us back a little bit,” Gray said. “It was kind of getting us a little out of system, but once we got used to it I thought we were ok again. I thought they came out more aggressive with their serves.”

Like White’s block in the first set, junior setter Sarah Sherman brought the momentum back for the Kats when she tied the game at four with a monster kill. The two teams were locked in a tight third set. SHSU and UCA were tied at 15, and sophomore outside hitter Taylor Cunningham came up with a crucial ace to tie the set at 17.

The Bearkats eventually found some breathing room when they took a 24-21 lead. Similar to the second set, Vaughn ended the final set, and the match, with a kill for SHSU’s second consecutive win.

“The thought in the third set was making sure that everyone does their job,” Gray said. “It was more about doing your job, taking care of business, being aware of where their three main hitters were and who was getting hot at the time. It was more about us trying to serve to the people that we felt were not passing well for them, so we could get them out of system. I think it worked.”

One stat that really stood out was how efficient the Kats were on the attacking end. The team totaled 46 kills, 44 assists and finished the game with a whopping .354 attacking percentage. UCA on the other hand, finished the game with 36 kills, 36 assists and had only a .123 attacking percentage.

“I just think that we have five hitters out there at all times and I don’t feel as though we can’t use a particular person,” Gray said. “I think they’re producing in good numbers. Not one player from our team had more than three errors, so I think that was key because we’re trying to eliminate those unforced errors.”

The quick Thursday to Saturday turnaround seemed to have no effect on the Bearkats in this crucial late-season stretch. SHSU (11-11, 5-4 SLC) will continue play next week with two road games. The Bearkats will hit he road on Oct. 27 to take on Houston Baptist (16-10, 7-3 SLC) before traveling to Beaumont on Oct. 29 to take on Lamar (5-17, 5-5 SLC).

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