CONWAY, Ark. – Taylor Cunningham delivered 19 kills and nine blocks, but the Sam Houston State Bearkats dropped their second match of Southland Conference play on Saturday, 3-1 (25-23, 25-18, 24-26, 25-17) to Central Arkansas at the Prince Center.
The Bearkats (13-11, 9-2 SLC) nearly overcame a 10-point deficit in the first set and forced a fourth set with a gritty win in Set 3, but hit just .117 for the match and could not hold off the Sugar Bears (21-3, 10-2 SLC) who moved to 11-1 at home this year.
It was the sixth time in the last seven games the Bearkats got at least 10 kills from Cunningham, who hit .486 for the match with just two errors on 35 swings. But no other Kat was able to contribute more than Jordyn Vaughn’s nine kills, with Brooke White adding seven.
Jaclyn Ward added 33 assists and defensively both White and Addison Miller had 13 digs apiece. Sam Houston finished with a season high 15 blocks for the match with Cunningham’s nine leading the way. White and Courtney Littlefield had five each, while Ward, Vaughn and Madison Wallace all had three each.
Sam Houston will return home for its final three home matches of the year this week, starting Tuesday night against Halloween. The Kats will then honor seniors Brooke White and Jordyn Vaughn prior to Thursday’s meeting with Lamar before closing out the home slate on Saturday against Stephen F. Austin.
Seven kills from Cunningham was not enough in the opening set as the Sugar Bears claimed an early 1-0 lead. The Kats held the early lead, before eight straight UCA points surged them in front. The Sugar Bears led by as much as 10 at 22-12, but the Bearkats stormed back despite hitting just .081, drawing back to within a point at 24-23 before UCA finished it off with a kill.
UCA took an early lead and never surrendered it in the second set, working around five Bearkat blocks to still hit .265 and score 15 kills to go up 2-0. UCA’s Amanda Beaton matched Cunningham’s six kills in the set, but it was an 8-2 run early in the set that helped the SGuar Bears build a five-point lead that they did not give up.
Sam Houston put together its best set of the day in Set 3, hitting .267 and holding the Sugar Bears to .189 to trim the lead to 2-1. A 6-1 run gave the Bearkats an early 8-3 lead, but UCA answered back with four straight points to draw to within two points at 14-12. Still, Sam held a 21-18 lead on a kill from Vaughn late in the set before three straight Sugar Bear points tied it up at 21-21. An error on Beaton got the Kats to their first-set point try but UCA fougth off two before a kill from Cunningham and a solo block from White closed it out.
The Kats carried that momentum over into the fourth set, building as much as an 11-5 run on a combined block by Littlefield and Wallace. But then the Sugar Bears took over, reeling off 10 of the set’s next 11 points to take control, scoring 20 of the set’s final 26 points. Sam Houston would hit just -.091 in the set, led by three kills from Vaughn.