A top of 15 student-athletes report Wednesday as preseason camp for the volleyball team begins. The Bearkats open 2012 action with the annual Sam Houston Invitational tournament Friday and Saturday, August 24-25. Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas Southern and Colorado comprise the rest of the field. The Bearkats are defending champions in the tournament.
Four starters including two players who each have earned All-Southland Conference twice look to lead the Kat volleyball squad this fall.
Senior middle blocker Kim Black, an all-league selection in both 2010 and 2011, ranks number two in all-time Bearkat blocks with 351. She was the team's second-leading scorer with 334 points. She totaled 249 kills and ranked fifth in the Southland in total blocks with 121.
Kaylee Hawkins, all-Southland in 2009 and 2010, begins her senior season ranked No. 9 in career digs (1,345). A versatile athlete, Hawkins has played both at outside hitter and libero.
Junior middle blocker Haley Neisler started 27 matches last year, totaling 210 kills and 108 blocks. Senior outside hitter Kendall Cleveland produced 179 kills and 45 blocks.
Other key players back include senior defensive specialist Jamie Haas, junior setter Tayler Gray and senior outside hitter Camille Alfaro. Each of the three have played in more than 200 sets for the Bearkats during their career.
Also returning from the 2011 squad are outside hitters Lauren Bohlen and Deveney Wells-Gibson and middle blocker Cherise Coleman.
One transfer and four freshman also are expected to strengthen the Bearkats both on offense and defense.
Amshatar Stephenson, a transfer from Texas Tech, could bring immediate help at middle blocker. She was a member of teams that advanced to the state finals four years in a row at Parish Episcopal High School in Garland.
Setter Michelle Griffith was district "Setter of the Year" and team "Most Valuable Player" for College Park High School in The Woodlands after leading her team to four consecutive district championships.
Outside hitter Sarah Guzman is a four-time All-South Texas selection who led Corpus Christi King to the state semifinals in 2010 and the regional quarterfinals twice.
Defensive specialist Bridgette Bennett earned all-district honors at Langham High School.
Middle blocker Carling Urban led Salado High School deep into the playoffs in both volleyball and basketball and was an All-Area selection last year.
Following competition in two other regular season tournaments and road matches at Texas State and Rice, the Bearkat volleyball team will play host to the newest member of the Southland Conference, Oral Roberts, in the league opener for both teams Thursday, Sept. 13, at Johnson Coliseum.
Tickets for Sam Houston State volleyball home matches are available online at www.gobearkats.com/tickets or at the SHSU athletic ticket office open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Ron Mafrige Field House. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.