New Orleans - Sam Houston fell to Mississippi State in three sets and Pittsburgh in four on the first day of competition at the Sugar Bowl Volleyball Classic hosted by Tulane Friday at the Hertz Center.
Kendall Cleveland led Sam Houston State with 12 kills as the Bearkats fell to Mississippi State 25-22 25-17 25-16 in their first match.
Sam Houston held early leads in each set. There were six ties and three lead changes in each of the three frames.
In the first set, the Bearkats rallied from 21-15 down to cut the margin to two points, 24-22, on a kill by Deveney Wells-Gibson. But MSU took the set on a kille by Lainey Wyman.
Sam Houston was up 9-8 in the second set and 6-5 in the third but could not hold off Mississippi State charges.
Wells-Gibson totaled nine kills and Kaylee Hawkins added five. Tayler Gray assisted on 33 of the Bearkats' 37 kills and also totaled eight digs. Kim Black, Hailey Neisler, Cleveland and Kaylee Hawkins each had a hand in three blocks.
Hawkins was the Bearkats' leader with 16 kills in a 25-13 25-20 18-25 25-21 loss to Pittsburgh Friday evening.
Pittsburgh never trailed in the first or second set but the Kats bounced back to win the third frame. Tied 16-16, Wells-Gibson started a 9-2 run that ended with Camille Alfaro making the kill on set point.
Pitt regrouped and led from wire to wire to nail down the fourth set and the victory.
Gray posted 45 assists and 13 digs. Jamie Haas led the Kats in digs with 21. Black totaled five blocks. Wells-Gibson produced 15 kills and Black added nine.
Sam Houston State will complete action in the tournament Saturday at 7 p.m. with a match against event host Tulane.
The Bearkats complete pre-conference action with the tournament. Sam Houston will open its Southland Conference schedule at home Thursday at 7 p.m. against the newest member of the league, Central Arkansas.