FRISCO – For the sixth time in the last seven seasons the Sam Houston State Bearkats placed two players on the all-Southland Conference volleyball first team in an announcement by league officials on Tuesday.
Jordyn Vaughn and Taylor Cunningham each earned first team nods while Brooke White was a second team choice, marking the second consecutive season the trio earned spots on the all-league squads. Setter Jaclyn Ward was also named an honorable mention choice.
“I thought the four who were selected for us put up some wonderful numbers and were all deserving of where they were chosen,” Bearkat head coach Brenda Gray said. “I think to have two selected to the first team shows the respect we have in the league.”
For Vaughn, she becomes the sixth Bearkat in program history to earn first team all-SLC honors multiple times in a career, an honor that just adds to what has been a stellar career. Vaughn enters this weekend’s Southland Conference Tournament leading the league with 3.88 kills per set for the year while her 4.08 kills per set in league-only matches is second among league players.
The Huntsville native has piled up 1,309 kills for her career and currently ranks 12th all-time at Sam Houston in that category. She has picked up nine double-doubles on the year and has reached double-figure kills in 13 of 16 Southland Conference matches in 2017.
“Jordyn is part of our foundation,” Gray said. “A six-rotation outside who has put up big numbers who is our leader and captain. She leads the way and leads by performance. She had few off nights and we struggled when that happened. When she was hot, we were good. I’m very proud of her.”
She was joined on the first team by Cunningham, a fellow Huntsville native. The junior middle blocker earned her first addition to the league’s top team this year after earning second team all-SLC as a sophomore.
Cunningham has averaged 2.73 kills and 1.20 blocks per set this season, ranking third in the league in blocks per set for the year while swinging at a .280 clip. She was even better in conference play where she ranks ninth in the league with both a .321 attack percentage and 3.10 kills per set. Her 1.37 blocks per set against league competition was a SLC best.
She reached double figures in kills in nine of the Kats’ final 12 matches, including five of those matches which saw her hit at least .400 with 11 or more kills.
“I still am unsure if she knows how terrific she can be,” Gray said. “She is so gifted and the sky is the limit for her. I’m so pleased she made first team. She was so very good in conference play this year and put up big numbers there for us. With her being a junior she has another year to be even better.”
White also earned her second all-conference honor of her career and can add some more history to her ledger this weekend at the Southland Conference Tournament. The senior outside hitter, along with Vaughn, surpassed the 1,000-kill mark for her career earlier this season and now needs just 13 more digs to become the 14th Bearkat in school history to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs for a career.
This season she ranks fifth in the league with 3.46 kills per set and became the first SLC player since 2015 to win both an SLC offensive and defensive player of the week honor in the same season. She had 10 or more kills in 20 of 29 matches this year and 11 double-doubles with none bigger than her 26-kill, 24-dig effort in a five-set comeback win at HBU on October 12.
“Brooke had somewhat of a different year, being up and down some, but she has put up huge numbers in her career,” Gray said. “I think she had some off matches against some tough teams, but she still had some big matches for us. She really been good for us defensively this year and to be right on the verge of 1,000 digs is a big deal. I’m really happy for her to be able to get an all-conference honor as a senior.”
Ward also earned the first postseason recognition of her career with an honorable mention nod after finishing second in the SLC in assists per set. The junior setter had 11 double-doubles of her own on the year and her 0.63 blocks per set was third on the team only behind Cunningham and freshman middle blocker Courtney Littlefield.
She averaged 10.04 assists per set and 10.68 in league play, reaching 50 kills in five matches and winning the league’s offensive player of the week honor once in her first season running the Bearkat offense.
“For Jaclyn to take over the floor this year and get recognition is a big deal,” Gray said. “It’s great to know the league is looking at her and giving her respect for doing such a great job. This will be a great motivation for her going into the tournament and into next year as a senior.”
With the regular season wrapped up, the Bearkats will now look to the postseason with the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament set to open up on Friday in Corpus Christi. The Kats will enter the event as the No. 6 seed after finishing the regular season with a 10-6 league mark and will face the No. 3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on their home court.
The Kats and Islanders battled it out in last year’s tournament championship with TAMUCC taking a 3-1 win to earn their second straight title. The teams split two matches this season with each winning on its home court during conference play.