HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State dropped its opening set on Thursday night against New Orleans. They were dominant from that point forward on CMT Awareness Night presented by Huntsville Memorial Hospital.
The Bearkats defeated the Privateers, 3-1, (25-27, 25-15, 25-19, 25-18), at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum, running their Southland Conference record to 3-0 for the first time since 2013 when the squad opened league action with six-straight victories.
Jordyn Vaughn and Brooke White paced play with 19 kills each against UNO (7-8, 1-2) while Jaclyn Ward totaled 41 of the team’s 51 assists. Addison Miller was one of three players to total double-digit digs, leading the squad with 17.
Sam Houston (6-9, 3-0) returns to action on Saturday at 1 p.m. as the team seeks its sixth win in the last eight matches. A victory would also push the Kats above .500 in the month of September, after dropping four of their first five to begin it.
Sam Houston and UNO combined for a back-and-forth entertaining opening set but the Privateers staved off two set-points and registered the final three points of the frame to claim the opener, 27-25.
The Bearkats jumped ahead midway through, scoring six of eight points highlighted by three kills from Courtney Littlefield to take a 16-11 advantage. Needing to respond, the Privateers did just that, claiming the next three points to spark a 5-1 run.
After a Taylor Cunningham kill and UNO error, the Kats built their lead back to two but once again, the visitor’s rallied, scoring the next three points to take a 22-21 lead – their first since going ahead 3-2. Sam Houston scored three of four out of its timeout to reach set point at 24-23.
The Kats could not close, however, and after producing another set point at 25-24, the Privateers rallied for the final three points necessary including an ace from Brianna Vega. The sophomore outside hitter struck the final kill on a lengthy volley to claim the set.
After a slow start to the second set, Sam Houston used a 7-0 run, marked by three kills from White to take a 10-6 advantage. The energy-filled play saw Sam Houston score 11 of 12 points during the frame, stretching the lead to 14-8.
The two teams exchanged 3-0 runs but the Bearkats did not let the Privateers back in it. Sam Houston outscored UNO, 8-4 the remainder of the way, capped by a Cunningham slam. The Kats claimed the set, 25-15, in a frame that included only one lead change.
The Bearkats continued to heat up in the third, taking a 7-2 lead on the back of four-straight points including a service ace from Madison Wallace. UNO responded with four-straight of their own, trimming the Kat lead to one at 7-6.
After UNO deadlocked the set at 14-14, Sam Houston scored four of the next five, forcing a Privateers timeout while taking an 18-15 advantage. The Kats continued to put the pressure on, taking a four-point edge on a White kill at 20-16.
A White ace set up set point for the Kats, who went on to capitalize, winning the frame, 25-19. Sam Houston hit a whopping .438 in the set, recording three or fewer errors for a second-straight set after having seven in the first.
The Bearkats opened up a four-point lead early in the fourth behind back-to-back kills from Cunningham and Vaughn. Sam Houston responded each time UNO threatened including pushing the lead to seven on a White service ace at 14-7.
UNO cut its deficit to four on a Kyra Hunter kill but the Kats struck back, scoring four straight including another ace, this time from Vaughn. Five straight UNO points brought the Privateers’ deficit back to three but Sam Houston ran off the final four points of the set to take it 25-18.
Sam Houston held UNO to a .080 attack percentage in the frame – totaling eight kills – while White nearly matched the margin with seven of her own. Vaughn totaled five while Jaclyn Ward posted 10 assists.
Head coach Brenda Gray on CMT Awareness Night…
“When he was diagnosed 2 ½ years ago, what do you do? I know every family is fighting through something. I thought we could reach so many people. Our administration was very receiving of it. Turnout has been great both years. We have 20 in our program who are willing to help in any way. It’s just wonderful.”
Head coach Brenda Gray on the turnaround after the first set…
“I think we were scoring all the points. We were making a lot of errors forcing things we didn’t need to. I think my hitters were trying to go around No. 11. They were throwing themselves off. We were able to get in a rhythm and that opened everything up. We got a hold of ourselves on the service line and got them out of their system a little bit.”
Head coach Brenda Gray on starting conference play 3-0…
“It’s very satisfying simply because we are playing two true freshmen. You are hoping they stay focused as long as they can. What they were doing in high school versus now are completely different. It’s very satisfying.”
Jordyn Vaughn on the 3-0 start and the difference after Set 1…
“For some reason we have been struggling in that first set. It’s just rocky. We came into the second set and knew where we needed to clean it up. We wanted to clean it up. To be 3-0 is huge. We’ve always started off terribly but now we’re rolling through.”
Addison Miller on the 3-1 victory and the home success…
“It feels great to be 3-0. Our coaches give us a great scouting report every time. In the first set, we always get those jitters. We did a great job adjusting. We love our gym. We love this environment. You get used to the sideline and we know our boundaries.”