Four games into the 2021 season, the Houston High School volleyball team has not yet lost a set.

The Lady Tigers swept two more best-of-five games this week, winning Tuesday at Summersville, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 and Thursday at Mansfield, 25-7, 25-5, 25-8.

LADY TIGERS OVERCOME ‘SCRAPPY’ OPPONENT

As the two teams battled tooth and nail throughout most of all three sets, Summersville held leads in the first two, only to have Houston pull away when it mattered most.

The host Lady Wildcats were up 13-10 in the first set after an ace by senior Marissa Fiske. But the Lady Tigers went on a 10-4 run and were ahead 20-17 following an error by their hosts.

Summersville responded and tied the score at 20-all in the see-saw scuffle, but Houston went on to win the set on a kill by 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Kelsey Pritchett.

The Lady Wildcats built an early 6-2 advantage in the second set, but the Lady Tigers then scored 5 unanswered points with junior Olivia Crites serving (including an ace by Crites) to lead 7-6.

Summersville hung around, but Houston went on a decisive 9-3 run to close out the set. The flurry began with a big kill by 6-foot senior outside hitter Sarah Purcell and ended on a kill by Pritchett right down the middle of the court.

HHS junior middle hitter Olivia Crites leaps to hit a ball past Summersville junior Kailey Bradley during the first set of the Lady Tigers’ road win on Tuesday. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

With a kill by Purcell, Houston took a quick 8-2 lead in the final set. But the Lady Wildcats chipped away again and trailed 19-18 when sophomore Kaytlin Martin won a battle at the net for a point.

But the Lady Tigers remained poised and went on to win the game on a long ball by Summersville.

Purcell had a big night with 9 kills and 3 blocks, while sophomore outside hitter Angie Smith had 8 kills, 13 digs and recorded a 2.3 passing rating.

Senior setter Hannah Dzurick had 5 kills and 11 assists for Houston, while Crites also smacked 5 kills and served up 2 aces.

Senior libero Mali Brookshire once again spearheaded the Lady Tigers’ defense with 18 digs and a 2.29 passing rating, while senior defensive specialist Logyn Foster had 17 digs and junior setter Aliyah Walker recorded 12 assists.

HHS sophomore Aliyah Walker sets a ball during the second set of the Lady Tigers’ win Tuesday at Summersville. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The Lady Wildcats’ defense helped keep them in the game, as they managed to lunge, dive and dig to return numerous hard-to-get balls.

Leading up to the game, Richardson had expected the Summersville to be “scrappy.” She called it.

“They get to a lot of balls,” she said. “They’ve been scrappy for years.”

EXPERIENCE RULES

At Mansfield, the host Lady Lions were no match for Houston’s roster of seasoned, battle-tested players.

The Lady Tigers served up a whopping 19 aces in the win, with Smith delivering 7 and Dzurick 4. Houston junior setter Makenzi Arthur had the biggest outing of her career and slammed 8 kills.

“Mansfield is a new program and showed some great hustle,” Richardson said, “but I was proud of how all the girls took care of business.” 

While it’s still early in the season, the Lady Tigers are exactly where they want to be so far.

“We’re definitely on the right track,” Richardson said. “These girls have a lot of confidence right now and it’s nice to see them pull themselves out of rough patches during the games.

“We’ve got to continue to get better each and every day and keep working toward our end goals.”

“I feel like if we all keep our heads when we are put under pressure, we can beat any team that’s thrown at us,” Dzurick said. “It’s a mental game at this point because we have the skill and ability.”

“We’re doing so good,” Crites said. “We’re working toward the goal of winning districts.”

The Lady Tigers will host county rival Plato on Tuesday. The contest will be the first-ever event staged in the new HHS gym.

“I’m excited to see these girls keep getting better and better,” Richardson said. “We’re super excited to play in the new gym next week and would love a big crowd!”

JV Lady Tigers players celebrate an ace during Tuesday’s game at Summersville. From left, Sophia Crites, Morgan McKinney, Isabell Pena and Jazmine Johnson. The Junior Lady Tigers fell in 2 sets, 23-25, 23-25. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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