The Texas State volleyball team is off to its best start in the rally-scoring era, thanks to a combination of senior leadership and freshman firepower, marshaled by a coach who knows how to get the most out of her players.
Even though the Bobcats won just one of three matches last weekend at the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla., they have amassed a 9-4 overall mark, their best 13-game stretch since 2001.
The 2000 team, which finished 29-4, won its first five matches before losing three in a row and then running off 24 consecutive wins. But that was in the final season of side-out scoring, in which only the serving team could score points.
Texas State is a perfect 5-0 at home and has posted wins against SMU, Houston, Baylor and Arkansas. The Bobcats will face Texas Tech (6-7) Tuesday at Strahan Coliseum.
Karen Chisum, who has coached in San Marcos since 1978 and has been head coach at Texas State since 1980, has the Bobcats believing in themselves. It helps that they have three seniors — right side hitter Amari Deardorff of Westwood and middle blockers Ashlee Hilbun of Leander and Molly Ahrens of Hendrickson — to provide examples and vocal guidance.
“Our seniors have given us outstanding leadership this year,” Chisum said. “Their experience has been a key to the team, but we also have some freshmen that are making an impact also. Whoever I have been putting on the court has been taking care of business.”
Deardorff leads the team in points (179), kills (158) and kill percentage (.355).
“Amari still has a knee issue that we have to watch a lot, but she is just so strong,” Chisum said. “If her knee hurts, she’s not telling us, and as long as she feels good enough to play, we will run her out there.”
Freshman outside hitter Shelby Vas Matt of Happy Valley, Ore, has played in 45 of the 46 sets this season, while fellow freshmen Kelsey Weymand (outside hitter, Brenham), Ali Hubicsak (defensive specialist, New Braunfels) and Cory Schrier (defensive specialist, The Woodlands) have contributed quality playing time.
“We have a great chemistry on this team, and we have things we didn’t have last year,” Deardorff said. “Our passing has been so much better, and we are able to keep the ball more in system. We’ve had a lot of early success, and we are getting used to it. In the matches we’ve won, we’ve been able to reduce our errors.”
Chisum said her players are learning not to panic when things go against them.
“Our confidence is high, and we know it’s not what the other team does, it’s what we do that will get us wins,” she said.
“We have a different aura because we are expecting to win,” Hilbun said.