Debbie James says winning 300 games makes her feel old.
It’s also a sign of more than a decade of success at Houston.
James reached a significant milestone Tuesday night when the Lady Tigers volleyball team downed Ava 25-21, 25-23 at Hiett Gymnasium for the veteran coach’s 300th career victory.
After earning a hard-fought victory, the players took turns embracing James to celebrate a memorable night.
“I have been blessed with outstanding athletes and great assistant coaches,” James said.
James has had a successful 14-year run with the Lady Tigers, averaging more than 20 victories per season to establish the program as a consistent winner. Houston has won four district titles the previous seven seasons under James, highlighted by a second-place finish at the state tournament in 2004.
James credited many people around her for the program’s success.
“About 10 years ago, CNN interviewed a great football coach, and I remember him saying he always surrounded himself with people who were strong in the areas where he was weak,” James said. “It’s never too late to learn from other people. Amy McNew, Deanna Smith, Trish Knight, Charlie Malam are just a few who have helped me be a better coach.”
Senior Janell Gentry had 14 assists for the Lady Tigers (10-14-3), who received the second seed this week in the upcoming district tournament. Amber Honig had seven kills, and Erica Keeney and Courtney Sillyman chipped in five apiece.
Houston, which lost to defending Class 1 state champion Winona 25-17, 25-10 Thursday, never trailed in the first set against Ava.
Freshman Sarah Pierce had back-to-back aces as the Lady Tigers took an early 11-4 lead that expanded to 21-11 on consecutive kills by Keeney and Gentry. A 10-2 run by Ava closed the gap to 23-21 before a key block by Honig thwarted the comeback.
Houston trailed 23-22 late in the second set when Honig’s kill attempt rolled off the top of the net and between defenders for a key point. Honig followed with another kill that helped the Lady Tigers earn an important SCA victory.
“I’m starting to see improvements in our offense,” James said. “Erica Keeney and Amber Honig are starting to be more aggressive at the net. That’s what it is going to take to start winning some big games. We have to be on the attack and hard.”
James, who was presented a bouquet of flowers following her 300th win, said she hopes she’s remembered for being a good coach and teacher.
“I want to be remembered as someone who cared about academics as well as
athletics,” she said.