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Samantha Wunsch and Jade Defraeye team up for the block in the Bobcats last home game against Coastal Carolina. Texas State leads the conference in blocks and is ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Defraeye leads the conference in blocks individually.
Daily Record photo by Gerald Castillo

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Ryann Torres urges on her teammates in the Bobcats last home game against Coastal Carolina.
Daily Record photo by Gerald Castillo

Bobcats look to add another conference tournament title with defensive mindset

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

It’s as consistent as death and taxes that Texas State Volleyball is headed to racking up one more championship.

This is still true despite losing the all-time leader in kills in Janell Fitzgerald and the all-time leader in assists in Emily DeWalt, nevertheless the Bobcats captured their seventh straight Sun Belt Conference West Division title and will enter the Sun Belt Tournament as the No. 1 Seed in the West Division, in hopes of capturing the program’s fifth tournament title.

As the Bobcats prepare for the conference title, the ability to continue the championship standard remains a major goal set by the team, including RS freshman outside hitter Samantha Wunsch.

“For me personally and for a lot of the new faces, it wasn’t so much as a loss of them, but what our goals are and what we want to accomplish,” Wunsch said. “When we set out with the ‘Leave No Doubt’ mantra, it exemplified the goals for this season.”

A team that had their early season struggles, Head Coach Sean Huiet said he is proud of this team that has battled through adversity to come out on top.

“To win our division for the seventh straight year with such a young team, [I’m] definitely pleased with how we progressed,” Huiet said. “The RPI came out today being ranked 35th, so we are right where we wanted to be. We battled this season with injuries and being a younger team. But they all came here knowing what Texas State Volleyball is all about and wanting to put their mark on it.”

Being one of the few players that played with the previous senior class, setter Ryann Torres saw the young team come together as a unit to continue the championship level standards.

“The upperclassmen who played with those players, myself, Jackie and Alyssa Ortega have that championship mindset that we share with this team,” Torres said. “They are really young, but it did not take very long for everyone to be on the same page. It started from the open gyms in the summer and winning the division and having that mindset really took place.”

One of the key aspects that Texas State has improved on during the season has been the defensive play.

While the Bobcats have historically been known as an high-powered offensive team, defense has become the name of the game this season, as Texas State leads the conference in blocks per match with three different players in the top five statistically in blocks while also being ranked in the top 10 in nation.

It has been the message all season for Huiet to improve the Bobcats’ defensive play–which has payed dividends in Texas State’s success.

“When people think about Texas State [Volleyball], they think about offense,” Huiet said. “Even though our offense is doing what they are supposed to be doing, our defense really picked up. Our block and digging have really skyrocketed this year. We are sixth in the nation in blocks and we lead the conference, so we are able to slow other teams’ best hitters down and take advantage of that. This team’s identity isn’t necessarily offense, so we are putting a lot of focus on our defense which has really helped us settle in and win some matches.”

Though it has been a challenge, the Bobcats have lived up to the yearlong message.

“Defense is not easy,” Torres said. “The beginning of the season it was a work in progress. Having that ‘one v one’ competitive mindset when you are playing defense against playing an opponent. It didn’t take that long for our defense to come together. This team is really gritty and lives up to our mantra of “Leave No Doubt.”

Now the Bobcats are ready to continue their tear through the conference in a return bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“They are on a mission,” Huiet said. “I feel good heading into this weekend. The top six teams in the Sun Belt are playing really well so it should be a fun weekend of volleyball.” Twitter: @ColtonBMc

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