The 2018 Sam Houston State Bearkat volleyball season is nearly upon us, with Coach Brenda Gray’s group set to open up the year on August 24 vs Drake on the opening day of the Sam Houston State Tournament.

This is the final of a four-part preview, position by position of this year’s squad, leading up to the 2018 season opener.

LIBERO/DEFENSIVE SPECIALIST NOTABLES 
Returning: Addison Miller, Ashleigh Traylor, Amy Martin
Newcomers: None

HUNTSVILLE – Going into the 2018 season, Sam Houston State head coach Brenda Gray knows that one of the strengths of this season’s team will be its defense and ball control with returning libero Addison Miller back to headline the back row.

Miller took over as the Kats’ primary libero as a sophomore in 2017 and held that spot for every set of all 30 matches a year ago, finishing in the top 10 among all league players with 3.88 digs per set. With the necessary quickness and knack for the position, along with high-level passing skills, Miller has the potential to excel to even greater heights as an upperclassman and should have an impact not only on the Bearkat defense, but on its offense as well.

“Addison knows she has more jobs than to just dig the ball,” Gray said. “She is a dynamite passer and just keeps giving Jaclyn (Ward) bullets to work with. Her doing what she does is huge for keeping us in system.”

The Prosper native averaged nearly 4.5 digs per set in conference play and essentially served as a second setter on the court, even dishing out a season-high seven assists three times on the year. She closed out the year with no less than a dozen digs in 17 of the final 19 matches of the year, including a career-high 29 at Northwestern State.

With players such as Ward, Taylor Cunningham and Madison Wallace all likely to play all the way around, Gray is encouraged about what she saw from Miller and her teammates on the back row during the spring season.

“She is so comfortable playing on the back row with who we have now, and everyone on the back row just plays so smooth,” Gray said. “We got great comments from the spring on how good our defense was, but it is because we communicate so well. They really trust each other and it’s nice to watch.”

The Bearkats also got great production in the spring from Ashleigh Traylor who enters her season after playing in 20 matches in 2017 following her transfer from Blinn College. She will likely spend her time on the back row as well, and finished off her junior year strong, averaging better than 2.2 digs per match over her final 10 outings of the year.

“It took Ashleigh some time to adjust to the way we do things, both here at Sam Houston and at this level of volleyball,” Gray said. “But she’s really bought in and because of that her play has really improved. She had some really good play late in the fall and that transferred into the spring.”

Gray is also not afraid to mix and match on the back row as well, with sophomore Amy Martin and setter Madilyn Miles as potential options in those situations.