The Bearkat volleyball team plays host to Lamar, Jackson State and Washington State in the 38th annual SHSU Invitational Friday and Saturday.
The defending Southland Conference champions have shown continued improvement through the first two weeks of the season. Sam Houston was the runner-up at the Appalachian State tournament and placed third last week at the SMU Mustang Classic.
Junior outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson and senior setter Tayler Gray earned all-tournament honors at the Appalachian State tournament. Senior middle blocker Haley Neisler was an all-tournament selection last weekend in Dallas.
“We’re not a finished product but we keep showing improvement each week,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Gray said. “It will be good to get back on our home floor.”
This could be a special weekend for the Bearkats as Gray, head coach of the Kats for the past 29 seasons, enters the tournament with a career mark of 598 coaching victories. Two more will make her only the 26th coach in NCAA Division I volleyball annals to total 600 or more wins.
Sam Houston stands 2-5 for the young 2013 season. Wells-Gibson leads the Kats with 84 kills in seven matches. Neisler has added 41.
Washington State will bring an experienced squad battle-tested in one of the toughest volleyball leagues in the NCAA, the Pac 10. WSU returns five starters from last year’s squad plus several top recruits.
The Cougars brings a perfect 7-0 record to Huntsville. Led by Kyra Holt with 100 kills in seven matches, WSU dropped only four sets in their seven outings.
Jackson State is led by outside hitter Mikayla Rolle who has totaled 50 kills in seven matches this year.The Tigers enter the tournament 1-6.
The Lamar match Friday at 7 p.m. will also be the Bearkats’ Southland Conference opener. The Cardinals stand 1-8, having faced a tough schedule matching them with teams like A&M, Houston, SMU and Rice. Cortney Moore leads Lamar with 71 kills in nine matches.
The tournament begins Friday with Washington State and Jackson State squaring off at 4 p.m. Sam Houston and Lamar play at 7 p.m. that night.
The event will wrap up with four matches on Saturday at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
Washington State takes on Lamar at 10 a.m., Sam Houston hosts Jackson State at 1 p.m., Lamar and Jackson State face off at 4 p.m. and SHSU concludes action versus Washington State at 7 p.m.
Tickets to the tournament are available online at www.gobearkats.com or will be on sale at the gate at Johnson Coliseum Friday and Saturday. For more information, call the SHSU athletic ticket office at (936) 294-1729.