LAFAYETTE, La. – The Sam Houston State volleyball team cruised to a sweep to kick off the day at the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic on Friday morning, but could not outlast Houston in the nightcap at Earl K. Long Gym.

The Kats held an early 1-0 lead and came back to tie things up with a win in the fourth set against the Cougars, but gave up a late Houston push to the finish line to split the day’s matches.

The Kats will finish out the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic on Saturday at noon when they take on the host Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

Sam Houston 3, Mississippi Valley State 0 (Box Score)
The Kats had no trouble opening up the day with a sweep (25-20, 25-8, 25-8) of the Devilettes.

Taylor Cunningham started off slow, but caught fire with eight kills in the second set and finished with a match-high 12 for the match with a pair of blocks. In all the Kats hit .377 for the match and made just seven attack errors over the course of the three sets.

Caroline Sheaff added six kills on an error-free 11 swings and Ashleigh Traylor made the most of her 12 swings with four scores. Jaclyn Ward dished out 17 assists and Madilyn Miles 13 more in the three-setter, while Addison Miller had 10 digs.

It took the Bearkats seven set-point tries to close out the first set, but from there it was smooth sailing. Sam Houston scored 15 kills without an error on 24 attacks (.625) and scored 10 of the final 11 points to roll through the second set before forcing 11 MVSU errors in a 17-point win in Set 3.

Houston 3, Sam Houston State 2 (Box Score)
The Bearkats could not outlast the Houston Cougars in the opening-day finale of the Classic, despite big matches from Cunningham, Ward and Chausse.

Cunningham finished with 17 kills and hit .256 with 16 digs and four blocks, while Ward added a double-double of her own with 25 assists and 12 digs. Madison Wallace added 15 digs and five blocks, while Addison Miller finished with a team-high 18 digs.

Chausse made the most of her six swings in the opening set, landing four kills as the Kats hit .400 and rolled to a 25-13 win. Sheaff added four of her own and Sam Houston scored five of the final seven points of the set to race out to a 1-0 lead.

But the next two sets did not go as well. Despite a 7-0 run that erased a six-point deficit in Set 2, the Cougars were still able to hold off Sam Houston with three of the set’s final four points to even things up at a set apiece. Again, it was a late UH rally that did the Kats in in Set 3 when the Coogs reeled off a 5-2 spurt to snap a 20-20 tie and go up 2-1. 

In the fourth set the Kats found themselves down 9-2 before turning the tide midway through. They finally tied it up on the strength of a kill from Cunningham and then took the lead at 17-16 one point later when Madilyn Miles found Breanne Chausse for a score. The Kats kept going from there, getting a block from Sheaff and Madison Wallace for the final point to force a deciding fifth set.

In the decider Sam Houston raced out to an 8-4 lead after forcing six early Cougar misfires, but from there Houston began to chip away at the lead. Four straight points made it a 9-9 match, and the teams traded points all the way to 13-13 when Chausse and Cunningham combined for a rejection that knotted it up late. However, the service line was not kind to the Kats on the final two points as an error was followed up by a Houston ace to close out the match.