HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State shrugged off a slow start to jump all over Nicholls, defeating the Colonels, 3-0 (25-22, 25-8, 25-14) in the first of three-straight home matches on Tuesday night at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
The match, sponsored by Community Service Credit Union, saw Sam Houston post a .279 attack percentage to win its second-straight Southland Conference match to open league play. The win vaults the Bearkats to 5-9 overall while the Colonels fell to 2-14 and 0-3 in the league.
After edging by the Colonels in the first set, Sam Houston led throughout the second and powered past the visitors in the third, helped by a team-best 15 kills from Brooke White and a tenacious defensive effort that limited Nicholls to a .040 attack percentage.
Sam Houston returns home Thursday, facing off against New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. The match will air live on ESPN3 with Matt Pederson on the call. The Kats own a 12-1 advantage all-time against the Privateers after last year’s 3-0 win.
The opening set was a back-and-forth battle, featuring 14 ties and nine lead changes between the Bearkats and Colonels. After 13 ties early on, Sam Houston found some breathing room, taking a 17-15 lead behind four-straight points.
That mini-run, including two Jordyn Vaughn kills, forced a Nicholls timeout. The Bearkats extended their lead to three on a pair of occasions, despite some long volleys, including 20-17 on a White kill. The Colonels came back to tie it at 21 but the Kats prevailed thanks to scoring four of the last five points.
Sam Houston was led by seven kills from White, five from Vaughn and a pair from Taylor Cunningham. Ward tallied 14 assists while Addison Miller posted five digs. The Bearkats out-hit the Colonels, .178 to .114.
Sam Houston opened the second set on fire, jumping out to a 6-0 advantage. The Bearkats scored 13 of the 15 points to continue the surge. Despite three-straight points by the Colonels, Sam Houston rebounded to score eight of nine.
The Bearkats ran away with the set, 25-8, helped by five kills from White and four a piece from Vaughn and Courtney Littlefield. The team posted an impressive .438 attack percentage while no Colonels player registered more than two kills in the frame.
The Colonels took two of the first three points before Sam Houston ran off five-straight points, taking a 6-2 lead and forcing a Nicholls timeout. Vaughn helped the Kats to four-straight points, capping the run with an ace to extend the lead to 11-5.
Another 8-0 Sam Houston run pushed the Kats ahead 19-7 in route to an eventual 25-14 win. In the win, White recorded her second-straight match with 15 kills after doing so Saturday at Abilene Christian. It was also her ninth-double digit kill performance in 13 matches this season.
Head coach Brenda Gray on the win vs. Nicholls…
“I thought we had a little bit of a slow start. That second set, I mentioned we had to throw a different arsenal. We were a little too basic for myself. I thought we did a good job of blocking and serving and we started to move the ball pretty well.”
Head coach Brenda Gray on the feeling after the match with four matches in eight days…
“I feel good. A win is a win. We’re 2-0 so we’re tied for first just like a lot of others. I think every year is different. I think our opening last year to start was probably against tougher opponents. It doesn’t stay equal all the time. It’s not really the start, it’s a finish. It feels good, though to be 2-0.”
Taylor Cunningham on the victory…
“We kind of had to figure out what they were doing. We had a slow start but it got better in the second and third set. With a team like that, you have to adjust a little bit. I feel like playing with Jordyn and Brooke makes it a lot easier. The opponent isn’t as set up on me as much.”
Taylor Cunningham on the mindset and 2-0 start to league play…
“We just take it one day at a time. We can’t think about Thursday’s game or Saturday’s game. We can’t look ahead. It is great starting conference 2-0.”
Jaclyn Ward on the three-set victory…
“Our middles do a really good job with pulling the block. When they do that, my pins are wide open. They always give me options. I’m just doing my best to take care of my part of the court. I have been working to get the fill. I just try with the flow of the game. We’re just taking it one game at a time. We’re looking forward to UNO. I think we have a lot of potential. We have great hitting options and our defense is looking great. We have good serving.”