HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State Bearkats’ perfect Southland Conference mark was in jeopardy after two sets on Thursday, but Coach Brenda Gray’s squad hit .304 in the final three sets and overcame a 2-0 deficit for the first time since 2014 in a 3-2 (25-27, 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-13) win over Houston Baptist at Sharp Gym.
The win keeps the Kats (10-9, 7-0 SLC) in the lead in Southland Conference play, while the Huskies (14-5, 6-2 SLC) suffered their first defeat on their home floor this season. It was the first time since the Kats’ win over Stephen F. Austin in October of 2014 that Sam Houston had overcome a 2-0 deficit to come back and win.
Sam Houston got a huge night from outside hitter Brooke White, finishing with 26 kills and a career-best 24 digs for her sixth double-double of the year. The senior hit .311 for the match, finishing just two kills shy of her career high and helping the Kats to a .218 percentage for the night.
Taylor Cunningham added a dozen kills, but did most of her damage at the net. The junior middle blocker finished with 11 blocks on the night, a new career high and the most by a Bearkat since Kim Black’s 11 against Central Arkansas in 2011.
Jordyn Vaughn had 19 kills and 15 digs, while Jaclyn Ward finished with 56 assists and six blocks from her setter spot. Addison Miller had three of Sam Houston’s seven service aces and 18 digs, while Madison Wallace had 10 digs and a pair of blocks.
The Kats got a big first set from Vaughn and White, with 11 combined kills, but the Huskies answered with three players totaling four scores each to take a 1-0 lead in the match. Cunningham had a hand in all four blocks in the frame, helping hold the Huskies to just .154 hitting; however, four HBU aces helped even things out. HBU led for the majority of the set, up by as much as five at 17-12, but the Kats managed to come back and tie things up at 19-19 on White’s fourth kill of the set. Still, the Kats had to come back from a 23-20 deficit and fought off a pair of set-point tries before kills from Ashtyn Richey and Jessica Wooten closed it out.
Things did not start off well for the Bearkats in the second set as HBU raced out to an 11-6 lead and did not look back in a 25-18 win to go up 2-0 in the match. Sam Houston picked up three blocks in the set, but the Huskies doubled that mark in holding the Kats to just .053 hitting for the set. White and Cunningham each had three kills, but Sam Houston was never able to get any closer than 23-17 late in the set after three straight kills from Madison Wallace, Cunningham and White.
Both teams managed to get their offense going in the third set, but it was the Bearkats who were able to cash in, staying alive with a 25-22 win. White had six kills and Vaughn five more, while Ward directed the Kats to .283 hitting. Sam Houston had to work around eight kills from HBU’s Bailey Banks in the set, and forced a Husky timeout at 10-8 after four straight points gave the Kats their first lead of the match. HBU would hang around for the rest of the set, but despite hitting .310, was never able to retake the lead. Consecutive kills from Banks tied it up for the final time at 22-22, but the Kats answered with three consecutive kills to force a fourth set.
White was the go-to hand once again in the fourth set as Ward found her seven times for scores as the Kats came all the way back to score the final five points of the set and force a deciding frame. The Huskies led most of the way until Wallace and Courtney Littlefield combined to block a swing from Banks that tied it up at 14-14. HBU re-took the lead at 21-19 and led 23-20 on a kill from Ashtyn Richey late in the set, but that would be the last offense they would get. A kill from Cunningham was followed by one from White and then an HBU attack error, evening things up at 23-23. Cunningham then got it done from the service line, dialing up consecutive aces to cap the 5-0 run to end the set.
The fifth set fit the bill for the rest of the night, being closely contested throughout. HBU hit .304 in the set and the Kats hit .308, but it was Sam Houston who got a block from Cunningham and Ward to snap an 11-11 tie late and surge the Kats to the finish line. Vaughn’s fourth kill of the set gave the Kats the lead for good and she got the Kats to a match-point try by following with an ace. The Huskies were able to fight off one match point, but not a second as Ward found Cunningham coming from the left side for her only kill of the set to close it out.
Sam Houston will step out of conference one final time during the 2017 slate on Saturday when it hosts Prairie View at Johnson Coliseum. First serve against the Panthers is set for noon.