Houston players, from left, Erica Keeney, Haylee Kell, Kaitlyn Kell, Lainey Casper, Sarah Pierce and Alexa Ichord look to the bench for instructions Tuesday night.

The Houston volleyball team may have to settle for a share of the conference title. That’s if the Lady Tigers can win their two remaining SCA matches.

Unbeaten through their first four conference matches, Houston’s quest for its first title in four years took a detour Tuesday night. Liberty survived two match points in the final set of a back-and-forth affair and escaped Hiett Gymnasium with a 22-25, 25-22, 28-26 victory.

Now 4-1 in SCA play, Houston (14-11-2) likely will need to win today’s (Thursday) match against Cabool and Tuesday at Ava for the opportunity to share the conference title. Two other teams have one SCA loss, including Liberty, which pulled even with the Lady Tigers at 4-1.

“I told them in the locker room, ‘You can either pout or get mad about this and carry it over into our next two conference games and be co-champs,'” Houston coach Amy McNew said.

The response?

“I think they are a little ticked off,” McNew said. “I’m happy with the fact that they look like they were not satisfied with what happened tonight.”

Erica Keeney led Houston with nine kills and five blocks. Sarah Pierce added eight kills.

Tory Burgess and Alexa Ichord had 16 and 14 assists, respectively. Lauren Hover led the Lady Tigers with nine digs.

Trailing 18-13 in the opening set, Houston scored 12 of the next 16 points to take an early advantage. Pierce slammed down consecutive kills during the rally, and senior Lainey Casper had an ace.

Liberty did the rallying in the second set. Behind 20-15, the Lady Eagles used a 10-2 spurt to force a decisive third set.

Houston twice escaped match points to stay alive. Casper had a tip between defenders to make it 24-23, and a Liberty hitting error made it 24-all.

The Lady Tigers had their own match points at 25-24 and 26-25 but could not put Liberty away.

Both times Houston failed to get kill opportunities. Liberty pulled even at 26-all and scored the next two points to pull out a hard-fought win.

“We did a really good job getting ahead and ended up giving them a free ball,” McNew said. “If you could go back and change it, you would. Reaction takes over when you’re out there.”

On Saturday, the Lady Tigers were 1-2-1 in the Licking Tournament. They defeated Willow Springs (25-16, 25-15), split with Mountain Grove (20-25, 27-26) and lost to Willard (25-20, 25-23) and Eminence (25-20, 25-22).

On Monday, Houston rallied past Winona 15-25, 25-21, 25-20.

JUNIOR VARSITY: The JV Lady Tigers improved to 11-5 Tuesday night with a 25-14, 27-25 victory against Liberty.

Houston lost 27-25, 15-25, 25-19 to Winona on Monday.



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