SHSU Volleyball Downs McNeese to Open Conference Play

The Sam Houston State University Bearkats tvoleyball team defeated the McNeese Cowgirls 3-1 to open Southland Conference play.

Heading into this matchup, McNeese led the all-time series 31-20, but SHSU won 10 of the last 11 matchups. 

Senior middle blocker Taylor Cunningham had record game with 21 kills, 16 digs and three block assists. With those three blocks assists, Cunningham ties Haley Neisler for third all-time in program history with 327. Cunningham was shocked at that number and talked about her feelings when hearing that.

“Honestly great,” Cunningham said. “To be third overall is pretty nice and that’s a really great attribute to have. I’m happy to be here, happy to play with such an amazing team.”

Head coach Brenda Gray spoke highly of her record setting middle blocker.

“Good for her,” Gray said. “She will probably finish at number one. I know we’ve got a full year in front of us. I think she’s also getting very close to 1000 kills. 1000 kills for a middle [blocker] is extremely impressive. That’s not done often.”

Senior outside hitter Madison Wallace claimed her first Southland Conference Defensive Player of the week award on Monday as an encore to her being MVP of the Maverick Invitational. 

The Bearkats took a 17-12 lead in the first set after a tightly contested start, but ended up dominating the first set 25-15.

“I mean, conference opener everybody’s anxious, everybody is excited to get started,” Gray said. “I thought we were a little uptight to start for some reason. Once we relaxed a little bit, we took control of the first set. I think we kind of waltzed our ball control and passing in set two a little bit and allowed [McNeese] to kind of open the door.”

McNeese claimed the second set, but in the third set the Bearkats came out red hot taking a 16-8 lead. Ward finished the third set with a total of 44 assists, and sophomore defensive specialist Amy Martin had a pair of aces leading to a 25-16 lead. Freshman outside hitter Breanna Chausse had five kills in the third set giving her 11 on the night.

In the fourth set, sophomore outside hitter Ashley Lewis gave the Bearkats back-to-back aces. Ward continued to rack up assists, adding 13 more in this fourth set giving her 57 on the day to go with her eight kills in the fourth set. SHSU took the set 25-18 to beat the Cowgirls in four sets.

Gray talked about the winning streak and the effect it is having on the team.

“Keeping the momentum, you want to keep it rolling,” Gray said. “We are going to approach every match as though there’s nothing next week. We are going to live in the moment and we are going to continue to play the best we can and continue to make adjustments to see what makes this team click.”

The Bearkats will look to continue their five-match winning streak Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum as they take on the Lamar Cardinals.

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