The Texas State volleyball team opened up their season with a win this weekend at Strahan Arena, snuffing out the Liberty Flames 3-1 before dropping the next two matches against the nationally-ranked University of Southern California and Northern Iowa.
The Bobcats took to the court at noon on Friday against the Flames, defeating Liberty 3-1 (25-13, 24-26, 25-21, 25-18).
Senior outside hitter Cheyenne Huskey, who started the year with the title of Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, led the way with 16 kills. True freshman Courtney Heiser made waves in her collegiate debut with a double-double, logging 13 kills and 10 digs in her first shot on the Bobcat court. Setter Emily DeWalt recorded her 22nd double-double with 30 assists and 10 digs, proving herself a powerhouse yet again in her sophomore year as Preseason Setter of the Year.
The Bobcats bounced back for another match at 7 p.m., rising to another level of play by attempting an upset against the 14th-ranked Southern California Trojans. The team riled up their fans for a first set nailbiter, taking the Trojans 28-26 before falling farther in the next two sets (15-25, 17-25). After a talk with head coach Karen Chisum, who hit her 40th season opener as Texas State’s head volleyball coach this weekend, the team was almost able to scrounge up another chance at a win before finishing out with a 23-25 fourth set loss.
“Our kids played a heck of a match,” Chisum said. “We have some things we need to work on, but give us some time and we will get it figured out.”
2,583 fans made it out to the match, making it the fourth-highest attendance in the volleyball program’s history.
“The crowd we had tonight was unbelievable and they will be back,” Chisum said. “They are excited about Texas State volleyball as am I.”
For the second consecutive match, Huskey finished with double-figure kills at 13. DeWalt totaled 36 assists, while freshman middle blocker Allie Smylie led the way with four blocks.
“They were a high-level team,” Huskey said. “In the first set, our blocking was really good. We played well but we have a lot of stuff to tweak. We can work hard and get it done. Though we may be a mid-major school, we have the heart and desire to play and compete with these big teams.”
Texas State closed out the opening weekend with a loss to Northern Iowa, falling 3-0 to the Panthers (25-23, 25-19, 25-13). The Bobcats struggled offensively with a .062 hitting percentage while UNI hit .297.
“You cannot hit 6.2 percent and expect to win,” Chisum said. “Tonight was one of those nights that was not meant to be. Northern Iowa is a fundamentally sound group and they took advantage of our miscues.”
No player on the Bobcats was able to record double-figure kills. Junior Kenedi Rutherford led the team with five kills, while Huskey, sophomore middle Jillian Slaughter, and a pair of freshmen in Buettner and Tessa Marshall all finished with four kills.
“I want to see myself as well as my teammates improve,” Buettner said. “Coach Chisum told us we played great after the game but we still have some little things to fix. Once we fix those little things we can win the game. Playing on the court here in Strahan for the first time is a great feeling.”
Next up for the Bobcats are the Rice Owls, who will come in hot and ready for revenge after losing to Texas State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. The game is set to be close, with both teams receiving six votes by the AVCA Coaches’ Poll. The matchup takes place at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
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