Sam Houston State University’s senior middle blocker Taylor Cunningham is not only a Bearkat athlete but is also a native of Huntsville.
Her strong start and team-leading 262 kills and 69 blocks to date has helped lead the Bearkats to a 14-5 start this season. SHSU is currently 6-1 against Southland Conference opponents this year, placing them right at the top in a three-way tie for second place. So how does it feel for Taylor Cunningham to go from a local Huntsville High School Hornet to a Bearkat legend?
“It’s great to be in my hometown,” Cunningham said. “Growing up, I didn’t want to stay in Huntsville. I was going to move away, but I love it. I love the fan base and how people I know [like] relatives and friends can see me play.”
With Cunningham continuing to dominate during her senior year, fans have basically grown to expect the impressive numbers she puts up virtually every time she steps on the court. Four years ago, however, she was just a freshman adjusting to playing in college.
“It’s definitely a lot different,” Cunningham said. “My high school experience was not as tough as college, but I feel like I’ve adapted well.”
There is no doubt Taylor has fully adapted to collegiate competition. She currently leads the entire Southland Conference with 4.03 kills per set, an entire half a kill more than the second place Samantha Anderson from UCA (3.53).
Her presence on the court is not limited to strong offensive showings, though. She is eighth in the conference averaging 1.06 blocks per set. She also became the first player this season to sweep the SLC Player of the Week awards with both offensive and defensive nods. Cunningham has accumulated three offensive player of the week awards this year.
Head coach Brenda Grey has nothing but praise when it comes to talking about her star blocker.
“She’s so gifted” SHSU head coach Brenda Grey said. “She’s just special, and I don’t know if we have had a middle as great as Cunningham in 35 years. She is very set in her ways, and she’s going to get her kills.”
She remains the center piece of this team and has become a strong leader for this team. Her 262 kills, 212 digs and 69 total blocks all rank within the top 11 in their respective categories in the SLC.
In her sophomore year in 2016, she set her single-season record with 307 kills. She is 45 kills away from that mark, and the Bearkats have nine more matches for Cunningham to chase down her personal record before this year’s conference tournament on Nov. 16.