As she publicly said goodbye to her two seniors, Houston volleyball coach Debbie James struggled to keep her composure.
“I always do this,” James said to the crowd inside Hiett Gymnasium.
The Lady Tigers bid farewell to Kortney Huffman and Megan Graeff as they played their final home match Monday night – a 25-14, 25-13 loss to Summersville.
Huffman is a three-year starter for Houston, including her sophomore year when the Lady Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals. A role player on that team, she has evolved into one of the team’s best hitters.
“We will miss her when she is gone,” James said. “I feel Kortney has had one of her better hitting years this season.”
Graeff, a first-year player as a senior, has played limited minutes with a nagging knee injury. James had to pause for a moment as she was overcome with emotion while praising Graeff’s attitude and role with the team.
“Megan has been a role model for the other kids. She is the best example of someone that puts the team before themselves,” James said. “We are all better people for having had her as a member of our team.”
After being serenaded with a personal rap from a few underclassmen, the seniors took a moment to embrace their coaches and teammates.
Farewells out of the way, the Lady Tigers will turn their focus to the district tournament. Houston, which is seeded second in the six-team field and received a first-round bye, will face the Cabool-Thayer winner at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cabool.
The championship game immediately follows at 8 p.m.
James said her team has plenty of areas to improve before making a playoff run. The Lady Tigers struggled mightily in long stretches against Summersville.
“Our footwork is incorrect most of the time, whether it be setting, hitting, passing or blocking,” James said. “But they have to make an effort to correct it and listen to what they are being told.”
Junior Amber Honig led the Lady Tigers with five kills against Summersville. Huffman had three, Sarah Pierce added two and Erica Keeney, Haylee Kell, Samantha Jones and Lainey Casper had one each.
Keeney led Houston with two blocks.