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Volleyball 'finishes first', sweeps Lamar in three sets

Staff Reporter

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 00:11

With the Southland Conference in the rear-view, Sam Houston State claimed their share of the SLC Volleyball Championship after they handled Lamar (10-23, SLC 2-17) 25-21, 25-16 and 25-21, in three sets Saturday.

"I couldn't be happier for this group. I love this team. The championship is just wonderful for them because they have worked extremely hard," Coach Brenda Gray told

With a total of nine ties and three lead swaps, the first set went back and forth before the Bearkats emerged victorious, 25-21. The second set followed suit, recording five ties and three lead changes.

In the second set, the Cardinals fought their way to an early 8-7 advantage. The Bearkats then answered with a run of their own, as they scored three straight points to lead 10-7 on kills by junior Haley Neisler, senior Kaylee Hawkins and a block by junior setter Tayler Gray and Kim Black.

From there, Sam Houston maintained control as they tallied 15 out of the final 22 points to own the second set 25-16.

Deveney Wells-Gibson, who earned offensive player of the week honors, led the Bearkats attack with 13 kills and 12 digs. The junior outside hitter ranks second in the conference with 4.06 kills per set.  Kaylee Hawkins added 10 kills and nine digs, respectively. Kendall Cleveland added nine more kills, totaling 350 on the season. Junior setter Tayler Gray helped the Kats’ cause with her 34 assists.

After a 5-9 start to the 2012 season, the Bearkats dominated the opposition down the stretch, finishing with a 20-10 overall record and a 15-3 Southland mark.  Putting a dent in the record books, they strung together a school best 13 match winning streak. The squad was almost untouchable during that streak, managing to win 39 of their 45 sets and eventually sweeping 13 out of their 20 victories on the season.

"I want to give credit to every team that came through here in all the years that I've been here that helped lay the ground work,” Gray said.

Saturday marked the final home appearance for the senior volleyball quintet Camille Alfaro, Kim Black, Kendall Cleveland, Jamie Haas and Kaylee Hawkins.  As the first senior Bearkat group to clinch a league title since 1994, the five-some has combined to lead the team to 71 victories and four consecutive Southland Conference post season appearances since 2009.

The Bearkats will share the Southland Conference Volleyball Championship with Central Arkansas, since the Bears swept Stephen F. Austin Saturday afternoon.  Sam Houston will be the no. 2 seed in the post-season league tournament, taking on Nicholls State Friday at the Farris Center in Conway, Arkansas.

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