The Sam Houston State Bearkats volleyball team defeated the New Orleans Privateers in four sets
Thursday night at Johnson Coliseum to improve to 3-0 in conference play (6-9 overall). It was not just any game, however, as it was CMT awareness night. CMT is Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, and for head coach Brenda Gray this benefit hits close to home. Gray’s grandson, Boston, has been diagnosed with CMT, and Thursday night was meant to raise awareness about the disease.
“Our administration was very receiving of it, Gray said. “Turnout has been great both years. We have 20 in our program who are willing to help in any way. It’s just wonderful.”
The first set was close right from the start, with the teams exchanging the first five points. It looked like the Bearkats might pull away in the middle of the set, but the serving prowess of the Privateers kept them in it. To say that string of serves knocked the Bearkats out of rhythm would be an understatement. What ultimately turned the set in the Privateers’ favor was the quick attacks they executed time and time again with junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Grice. Grice ended the set with six kills, and it was the three kills she had off those quick attacks that were back-breakers before a kill right down the line by junior outside hitter Blessing Dunn ended the set 27-25 Privateers.
We just pinned in on the middle,” Gray said about adjusting to quick attacks. “We told our right side to just stick with the middle and you just be one person and let the left side just take a big swing.”
The second set started much like the first one ended. The Privateers’ consistent serves gave SHSU problems, which resulted in the Bearkats struggling to find their rhythm.
“We were kind of slow to the ball,” sophomore libero Addison Miller said. “We didn’t know where they were going to go.”
A couple of Privateer errors got the Bearkats going, though, and they did not slow down once they got started. After being down 6-3 at one point, SHSU outscored the Privateers 22-9 to take the set 25-15. The Bearkats were spurred by the dynamic duo of senior outside hitters Brooke White and Jordyn Vaughn, who had five kills apiece.
“I told Jackie [Jacklyn Ward] to go back to Brooke and go back to Jo [Vaughn] and get them in a rhythm,” Gray said. “Those two just open up everything.”
The third set was one where the Bearkats took control early. Starting off the set up 7-2, it looked like they were ready to run away with it, but once again the Privateers would not go away. The Bearkats were up 14-10 before a 4-0 run by the Privateers tied it up. That run seemed to wake up the Bearkats who scored five of the next points, including three kills from Vaughn. SHSU rode that run to a 25-19 third set win.
There was a carryover effect as the Bearkats started off the fourth set very strong. Up 6-2, they steadily built on that for most of the set. SHSU pulled away 21-14, but another 4-0 Privateer run got them back in it late. A timeout by coach Gray seemed to refocus the Bearkats, as they scored the next four points taking the set 25-18, and the match three sets to one.
With the win, SHSU is 3-0 in Southland Conference play for the first time since 2013. Up next the Bearkats will be playing their fourth game in seven days, as they take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions Saturday at Johnson Coliseum. The game is set for 1:00 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPN3.