There is little doubt as to who is the most improved volleyball player in the Southland Conference for the 2012 season.

According to a vote by the league's head coaches, she is also the best player in the Southland.

She is Deveney Wells-Gibson, Sam Houston State's powerful outside hitter from San Antonio who just has been named as Southland Conference volleyball 2012 "Player of the Year" after leading the Bearkats to their first regular season league title since 1994.

The Churchill High School produced was the top-scorer with 496 points for the Bearkats as they rolled to a 20-10 overall regular season mark and posted its highest Southland victory total ever with a 15-3 league mark.

She ranked No. 2 in kills (421) in the Southland and also was No. 10 in digs (339) and No. 12 in aces (34). She totaled double figure kills in 26 of the Bearkats' 30 matches and was a two-time Southland Conference offensive player of the week selection.

Wells-Gibson is the first Bearkats to claim the honor since Julie Franzen won after SHSU's 1993 conference championship season.

All those accomplishments aren't bad for a player who saw limited action as a true freshman in 2011 playing behind four-time all-Southland star Carli Kolbe. In 22 matches Wells-Gibson totaled 22 kills a year ago.

Head coach Brenda Gray who received Southland Conference volleyball coach of the year honors this week credits Deveney's success and the accomplishments of the entire team to hard work.

"I couldn't be happier for this group. I love this team," Gray said. "The regular season championship is just wonderful for them because they have worked extremely hard. We're looking forward to a great tournament."

Wells-Gibson is proud to be a member of the first Sam Houston volleyball team since 1994 to hoist a Southland regular season championship trophy.

"It feels great to be number one," Wells-Gibson said. "We're grateful for the opportunity to come to the tournament as one of the top seeds. We're all very excited."

Next step for Sam Houston is the Southland Conference post-season tournament in Conway, Ark., which begins Friday at 11 a.m. when the Kats take on No. 7 seed Nicholls State Semifinals are on Saturday and finals Sunday at 2 p.m. The tournament champion will represent the Southland Conference in the NCAA volleyball championships.

"We just have to keep playing our game in the tournament," Wells-Gibson said. "If we play hard every point, things will take care of themselves"

After starting the season 3-7, the Bearkats went 17-3 the rest of the season including 12 three-set sweeps. The team rolled up 13 consecutive victories at one point during the march to the conference title. The 13-match winning streak is the longest since SHSU moved up to the Division I level in 1986.

 "Our mentality as a team has been to play every opponent like the same opponent and to play hard every point," Wells-Gibson said. "Our number one goal is to play each and every point like it was the last point."

Sam Houston went 7-2 away from home in Southland play including a four-set win over tournament host Central Arkansas on the Bears' home floor.

 "We'll felt all year that we play better on the road. We don't know why," Wells-Gibson said. "Maybe it's the routine and the rituals. But we're very confident playing away from home."

For complete information on the 2012 Southland Conference volleyball post-season tournament plus links to live stats and live streaming, go to Southland Volleyball Tournament Information.