The Sam Houston State University volleyball team is looking to build on a successful 2018 season where they finished third in the Southland Conference with a 13-3 record against SLC opponents and a 22-8 record overall.
Despite losing three key seniors last year (Jaclyn Ward, Madison Wallace and Taylor Cunningham), the team returns a strong core.
The Bearkats started their season off with the annual SHSU Invitational August 30-31. The Kats finished with a record of 1-2, defeating Prairie View A&M in five sets but losing to Louisiana Tech University and Oral Roberts University.
Although they lost the second and third game of the tournament, the first game win meant a little more than a simple tournament game victory. The team dominated in its first two sets against Oral Roberts but struggled to close out the third and fourth set— leading to a final fifth set. SHSU was able to take the final set, dropping the decider 15-10 to win the game. With this win, head coach Brenda Gray became just the 26th coach in NCAA history to surmount 700 career wins.
“You know, it’s crazy that I’m at 700 because, well, I mean, that’s a lot,” Gray said. “But I’ve been involved in a lot of volleyball games and to me, I mean, it’s just a product of what they do every day. So this is a new team, this is their statement. So right now we are just 1-0. That’s how I look at it.”
The team followed up that tournament with the BYU Classic in Provo, Utah. The Bearkats also finished this tournament with a record of 1-2— facing off against Weber State University, Brigham Young University and Long Island University.
The Bearkats lost their opening game losing to Weber State 3-0. Junior outside hitter Ashley Lewis shined as the one bright spot in the match compiling14 kills. Weber State had four different players with nine kills each that showed to be the deciding factor. The Bearkats lost each set 25-21, 25-19, and the last set 25-18.
In their second game against BYU, the team put up more of a fight, but still ended up losing 3-1. The Bearkats took the first set 26-24, but they failed to capitalize on that win as they scored only 13 points in their following set— losing 25-13. The team was then unable to follow up in their next two sets only scoring 18 and 16, respectively.
Lewis followed up her first game with another impressive performance with 15 kills, as well as freshman outside hitter Catherine Krieger who had 10 kills. Madelyn Robinson of BYU had 16 kills to lead her team.
In the final game of the tournament, the Bearkats were able to win against LIU in dominating fashion by taking the first three sets and not looking back on their way to a sweep. SHSU did not allow more than 18 points in any set, including only allowing 12 points in the second set of the game.
The team will look to build off the momentum of that game three win as they go further into the season. Next up, SHSU will participate in the Gamecock classic in Jacksonville, Alabama. In this tournament they will face off against Jacksonville State University, Mississippi State University and Stetson University.
Jacksonville State finished fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference last year with a conference record of 9-7 and a total record of 18-14. They also made it to the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
Mississippi State looks to bounce back after an extremely underwhelming season in which they finished with a total record of 5-26. They only won one conference game the whole season and look to have a brand new approach to this year.
Stetson University finished last season with an 8-8 record in conference and a total record of 16-13. They finished fifth in the Atlantic Sun Conference and look to improve this season after an average season the year before.
The Bearkats have a very good mix of young and veteran players which looks to help continue their success they have had in previous years. Lewis looks to continue her strong start to the season after two very impressive tournament performances. Her veteran leadership looks to help carry this team throughout the season. On the younger side of the team, sophomore outside/ right side hitter Breanne Chausse has also had a very strong start to the season as she has now gained more playing time.
The Bearkats look to gain their first tournament win next week in Alabama in the Gamecock Classic with their first game against Jacksonville State Sept. 13.