Oct. 9, 2013
BEAUMONT – The Lamar volleyball team will continue its Southland Conference season this weekend as the Lady Cardinals head west for a pair of matches against new conference members Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.
Despite dropping three matches in conference play thus far, Lamar (4-14, 2-4 SLC) hopes to maintain the level of play it exhibited over the past two weeks, resulting in a victory over Houston Baptist and a pair of tight matches against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and first place Sam Houston State.
A large part in the improvement has been the continuing maturation of a squad that features 10 freshmen and 11 newcomers overall. Injuries have played a major role in hampering the process this season, forcing a number of players to play out of their natural position, but head coach Justin Gibert
feels that he’s found a competitive line-up despite the setbacks.
“I think we feel reasonably comfortable with the line-up right now,” Gibert explained. “We’ve played well at times this season, but have come up short on the scoreboard. I feel that if we continue to play well, we’ll start putting some Ws up on the board. This middle part of the season is very important, and every match matters for us if we want to get into the postseason.”
One of the big changes has been Sara Landis. The freshman out of Nebraska had been platooned at middle blocker with similarly accomplished players this season in sophomore Cortney Moore and fellow freshman Chelsea Grant, but Gibert felt that she might be effective on the right side of the net. Last Saturday vs. SHSU, she got her chance and responded with one of the best matches of her young career, racking up 13 kills at a .310 rate to go along with a trio of blocks.
Moore and Grant combined for 22 kills, with the latter adding nine blocks and a pair of service aces.
Even with the offensive surge from the young group, Sierra Whittaker is still at the head of the LU attack. The senior out of Houston has bounced back from an injury earlier this season and provided 3.41 kills per set. She’ll be looking to etch her name in the school history books for good this weekend as she’s just 18 kills shy of 1,000 for her career.
Alexa Johnson has been in charge of facilitating the offense, averaging 8.24 assists per frame.
Defensively, regular libero Megan Schwartz has been pushed into an outside hitter role over the past few weeks, but she’s still been strong on the back row, averaging 3.77 digs per frame. Erika Rojas has taken on the role in her stead impressively, recording 2.73, and Molly Duge, who missed much of the early part of the year, isn’t far behind at 2.41.
Both ACU and UIW enter the weekend with similar conference records to the Lady Cards. ACU (5-9, 1-5 SLC) is coming off a pair of losses on the road, dropping matches to Houston Baptist and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. UIW (7-8, 2-4 SLC) split its HBU/TAMUCC road trip, beating HBU 3-1. Earlier this week, the San Antonio school handed Texas A&M-Kingsville a 3-0 decision.
First serve on Thursday is set for 7 p.m. in Abilene and 2 p.m. on Saturday in San Antonio.