Houston's Desiree Venable puts down a kill against Willow Springs.

With two starters injured, the Houston volleyball team relied on several younger players to top conference rival Willow Springs.

Freshmen Megan Silveus and Hayley Walker and sophomore Haley Kelley each contributed to a 25-21, 25-13 victory Tuesday inside Hiett Gymnasium.

Houston (6-5, 1-0 South Central Association) was without junior Amber Sillyman, who injured her shoulder last week, and sophomore Sydney Cremer, who is sidelined with an ankle injury. Sillyman dressed but did not play. She is expected to return today (Thursday) against Salem.

The Lady Tigers didn’t fare well in their first match without Sillyman — a straight sets loss last Thursday to Conway. They played much better in their second match without Sillyman and Cremer.

“I’m proud of the younger players, and so are their teammates,” Lady Tigers coach Skye Carrasquillo said. “They congratulated them as soon as we got to the locker room.

“They did exactly what was asked of them.”

Desiree Venable led Houston with six kills. Alexa Ichord had eight assists.

After falling behind 10-5 in the opening set, the Lady Tigers got consecutive blocks from Haylee Kell and Silveus to pull even at 10-all. Venable had a pair of aces during a 6-0 rally that gave Houston a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Willow Springs, which hasn’t won a match this season, pulled within 21-20 before Houston scored four of the next five points to win the opening set. Venable had a tip and kill during the spurt.

The second set wasn’t as close.

Silveus had a block, Venable followed with a kill and Ichord served an ace during a string of five consecutive points that made it 13-6. After a Willow Springs point, Venable had a kill and three consecutive aces to put Houston ahead 18-7.

Kelley had a kill that put the Lady Tigers up 22-11, and Walker served the final two points to close out the match.

On Thursday, Carrasquillo said her team never looked comfortable in a 25-14, 25-18 home loss to Conway. It was the Lady Tigers’ first game following Sillyman’s injury.

“It affected us emotionally,” Carrasquillo said. “It shouldn’t have as much as it did, but you can’t ask your players not to be worried about one of their teammates. They were really concerned about Amber and her health.”

Carrasquillo was so displeased with her team’s performance that she held practice immediately following the match.

“Passing. Defense. Blocking. Serving. We just weren’t there,” Carrasquillo said. “It’s not an excuse to say just because we have one player out that we can’t do what we’re supposed to.”

Ichord had a team-best seven assists and four kills. Venable led Houston with five kills.

JUNIOR VARSITY: The Houston JV volleyball team improved to 2-3 last Thursday with a 16-25, 25-21, 25-18 victory against visiting Conway.

Silveus and Kelley had four kills apiece. Bailey Earp and Ashlee Topping handed out five assists each. Kylee Elmore had four aces, and Walker led the team with 15 digs.

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