HUNTSVILLE – Taylor Cunningham exploded for a big match and the Sam Houston State Bearkats won their fifth match in a row, taking down McNeese, 3-1 (25-15, 22-25, 25-16, 25-18), in the Southland Conference opener for both teams on Thursday at Johnson Coliseum.
Cunningham finished with 21 kills and 16 digs on the night, hitting .463 with three blocks to lead the Kats (9-4, 1-0 SLC) on a night that saw them hit .280 as a team. She will enter Saturday’s match vs Lamar needing just 17 more kills to become the 23rd play in Bearkat history to reach 1,000 for a career.
The senior from Huntsville was not the only Bearkat to turn in a big evening as Jaclyn Ward tied her career high with 57 assists, while adding 13 digs, and freshman Breanne Chausse connected on half of her 28 swings for a season-high 14 kills.
Sam Houston also got 22 digs from Madison Wallace and held the Cowgirls (1-14, 0-1 SLC) to just .179 hitting for the night, working around a second-set loss that still had the Kats out-hit McNeese .310-.302 behind seven of Cunningham’s kills.
The Kats used a 7-2 run fueled by three straight kills from Chausse to break away in Set 1, but despite a late run were not able to climb out of a six-point hole as the Cowgirls held on to tie things up.
In Set 3, Sam Houston dropped in five service aces and held McNeese to .139 hitting to retake the lead and then used eight kills from Cunningham in the final set to race to the finish.
Sam Houston will look to move to 2-0 in league play on Saturday when it hosts Lamar at 1:00 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum.