The Sam Houston State Bearkats took on the Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks in a Southland conference rivalry showdown Tuesday night. The Bearkats came out a little differently this game, playing senior Claire Kilpatrick as their libero, instead of freshman Addison Miller. The switch looked like it paid off, as the Bearkats defeated the Lumberjacks in four sets (25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 25-18).
Junior setter Sarah Sherman helped the Bearkats get off to a hot start, getting seven kills in the first set to help the team jump on top of SFA early on. The Bearkats came out and played comfortably from the start. The Bearkats simply looked more comfortable and more at ease on the court at the start of the game. That comfort level allowed them to take the first set 25-22.
“Sarah Sherman started us off very quickly offensively,” head coach Brenda Gray said. “Our serving had them totally off balance, and we tried to help Michelle by running different patterns. It was a big team effort.”
After the first set, the Lady Jacks really seemed to find their footing in the game. Intense play by both teams really dominated the middle of the game. Several long exchanges highlighted what was an exciting second set, but the Lady Jacks withstood a Bearkat rally late in the set to win 25-22. The match went into the extended ten-minute break tied at one set apiece.
Coming out of the break the Bearkats looked like the calmer, cooler and more collected team once again. Throughout the set the Bearkats looked in control of not only themselves, but the Lady Jacks as well. It was clear throughout the night that the Bearkats were going to win the game. The sheer determination of SHSU was evident. They were not letting balls hit the floor, every SFA kill was being blocked, and when all else failed, the Bearkats would just find a way to get the ball over the net to give themselves a chance to win the set. The Bearkats simply were not going to get outworked.
“Taylor Gray said right before they fourth set do not get outworked,” senior setter Michelle Griffith said. “That was our goal in the fourth set.”
The Bearkats ended up winning the third and fourth sets fairly comfortably, giving the Kats their fourth win in five games.
The Bearkat attack was red-hot as the team finished the match with a .271 attack percentage. A key component to the Kats’ offense Tuesday night was Griffith. She led the team in assists with 55 and in digs with 18. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Cunningham led the way in kills with 16, followed by junior outside hitter Brooke White with 15, Sherman with 14 and senior outside hitter Jordyn Vaughn followed close behind with 13.
The Kats are now 7-5 in Southland conference play, and sit in the fourth place spot. Up next, the Kats will play Southern Louisiana on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Health and Kinesiology.