By Davis Domescik, Sports Editor
The Samford women’s volleyball team is off to an impressive start this season. The Bulldogs currently sit at 5-7 overall, with all of their games so far against non-conference opponents.
The Bulldogs look poised for yet another season of success, and they return most of the players from last year’s roster. Lauren Deaton and Kenya McQuirter lead the team this season, as both players received preseason All-SoCon honors.
Most recently, Deaton broke Samford’s all-time kills record in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Murray State.
Junior Kayla Keshock also returned to Samford this season as she continues her run as Samford’s premier setter. Keshock is averaging around 10 assists per set. In the Bulldogs’ last matchup against Murray State, Keshock recorded a game-high 54 assists for the Bulldogs.
Samford is near the top of the Southern Conference in almost every statistic. The Bulldogs rank third in hitting percentage, second in assists, second in kills and second in service aces. However, an area of improvement for the Bulldogs could be their blocking, as Samford ranks last in the SoCon in that statistic.
Samford’s performance so far has been excellent, considering the opponents’ quality. Their play so far, however, can be best categorized as up-and-down. The team started the season in an exhibition against Troy, in which the teams tied 2-2. The Bulldogs then traveled to Baton Rouge to play in the Tiger Classic hosted by LSU. This trip was not kind to the team, as they fell to LSU, Rice and Houston. Bulldog fans should take this with a grain of salt, as Rice is currently ranked in the top 25 nationally, and Houston is receiving votes in the poll.
However, after the Tiger Classic, the Bulldogs played in the UAB Open, hosted by the Blazers. Samford swept Little Rock, Jackson State and UAB. Since the UAB Open, the Bulldogs have posted a record of 2-5. This includes a home split, with a loss to Clemson and the aforementioned win over Murray State at the Samford Invite.
One of the emerging stars for the Bulldogs this season could be sophomore Gracie Lynn Butler. Butler is third on the team in kills, third in digs, fourth in assists, third in blocks and fifth in service aces. Coach Keylor Chan commented in an interview with Samford Athletics that Butler “is emerging… She’s been able to flip between both the left and right side, depending on what we need. We’re very deep this year, so we’re excited about the possibilities that we have before us.” If Butler can continue to elevate her play and match it with the output of Deaton and McQuirter, the Bulldogs could have a three-headed monster that would make them a tough customer in SoCon play.
Overall, the women’s volleyball team has a lot of promise this season, with returning stars, emerging talents and a demanding non-conference schedule preparing them well for SoCon play. The Bulldogs will open conference volleyball this Friday, traveling to face Western Carolina.
NOTE: This article was written before Samford’s match against Western Carolina. Statistics and records may have changed before press time.
Source: Volleyball Season Preview. Samford University Athletics. (2022, August 24). Inside athletics: Volleyball season preview. Samford University Athletics. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://samfordsports.com/news/2022/8/24/womens-volleyball-inside-athletics-volleyball-season-preview.aspx