Volleyball looking to make deep run in conference tournament

Photo courtesy of Leila De La Cruz

After not playing a match in over 13 months, the Sam Houston volleyball team finished second in the Southland Conference, just behind rival school Stephen F. Austin State University. The Bearkats finished with a 10-2 record on the season, which rewarded them a two-round bye in the conference tournament.

The team has high aspirations after last season ended at the hands of the rival Ladyjacks in the conference title game in a 3-1 defeat in November 2019.

This time around, the Bearkats looked prepared to take on any competition that comes their way.

Player of the year leads the way
Senior outside hitter Ashley Lewis will anchor the team throughout the tournament after coming off an award-winning season. Lewis was awarded SLC player of the year earlier this week, becoming only the fourth player in program history.

Lewis appeared in all twelve matches this season, starting in all but one of those games. She led the conference with 4.34 kills per set this season, including setting a career-high in kills against Houston Baptist University earlier in the season with 27.

Along with this, she racked up nine double-doubles on the season and finished first in the league in points, averaging nearly five points per set this season.

Lewis will be looking to have her senior presence help out the team in this season’s SLC tournament run.

Freshman power
On the opposite side of things, the freshman of the volleyball team has stepped up in a huge way this season.

The Bearkats knew they needed someone to replace Addison Miller at libero and put their trust into freshman libero Hannah Baker. In her freshman season, Baker averaged 4.7 digs per set, which ranked in the top five for the SLC. She also won defensive player of the week on March 23.

Along with her defense, Baker ranked second in average service aces with .49 per set.

Freshman middle blocker McKenzie Morvant was also a huge freshman help, especially on the defense side of the ball. Morvant finished the season ranked second in average blocks per set with 1.21. Her defense was acknowledged in the final week of the season as she won defensive player of the week, five days after Baker won the award, on March 28.

Freshman defensive specialist Makensie Garner also made an impact for the team playing in all but three matches this season. Her best game arguably came in the first game of the season against the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears when she had a season-high 7 assists.

Looking for revenge
In the Bearkats semifinals game, they will be squaring off against Central Arkansas, who is one of two teams that defeated the Bearkats this season.

This was the season opener and the Bearkats first game since the SLC championship game in 2019. The Bearkats lost in five sets and were just short in all of their set losses.

The Sugar Bears were able to take the first set in that matchup with a 31-29 score. The Bearkats responded with a 25-21 set victory and the back-and-forth ensued. Both teams won one of the next two sets with a 25-23 score, which took the game to a fifth set. In this last set, the Sugar Bears pulled away to steal the season opener with the five-set victory.

Following this loss, the Bearkats responded with only losing one more game during the season and going on a 9-game winning streak in that span.

Sam Houston will play their first match against the aforementioned Sugar Bears Friday, April 2 at noon. If they win this game, they will play either the Ladyjacks or the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in the title game on April 3.

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