In the season’s first two South Central Association conference games (both on the road), the Houston High School volleyball team came away with two more wins last week, beating Mountain Grove 3-1 on Tuesday and then sweeping Thayer 3-0 on Thursday.
The Lady Tigers then got another sweep on Monday of this week, beating Eminence 3-0 in a nonconference home game.
While the Lady Tigers didn’t post a sweep at Mountain Grove, they did win three straight sets to prevail in the best-of-five contest.
After the host Lady Panthers won the first set 25-19, Houston took the next three, 25-19, 25-18 and 25-15.
“We started out pretty rough,” said HHS head coach Loran Richardson. “Lack of communication, effort and errors hurt us. I’m proud of the way the girls turned it around and quickly took over the match.
“When we play with energy and communication, we’re hard to stop.”
Trailing 16-10 in the first set, Houston scored the next 4 points and cut the deficit to 16-14 on an ace by senior Logynn Foster.
But Mountain Grove regained the momentum and went on a 9-3 run to close out the set.
As the two teams exchanged blows in the second set, the score was tied at 18-all when the Lady Tigers found their rhythm and went on a decisive 7-1 run. The flurry was bolstered by 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Kelsey Pritchett, who had a kill and 2 blocks, including a block to score the final point.
The Lady Panthers scored the first 2 points of the third set, but Houston responded with 8 consecutive points. With Foster serving, the run began with a pair of timely kills by 5-11 junior Olivia Crites and included rally-stopping kills by 6-foot senior Sarah Purcell and sophomore outside hitter Angie Smith.
Mountain Grove hung around for the rest of the set, but never got any closer than 5 points.
The Lady Tigers built an advantage early in the fourth and final set, and led 8-4 after a block by Pritchett and a pair of kills by Smith. Houston extended the lead from there, and went ahead 17-7 after senior Hannah Dzurick served up an ace.
The game ended on another set of back-to-back kills by Smith.
Smith led the Lady Tigers’ attack in the contest with 13 kills, while Crites and Dzurick each smacked 8 and Purcell banged 6.
Senior libero Mali Brookshire racked up 26 digs and had a 2.47 passing rating for Houston, while Smith had 17 digs. Pritchett recorded 4 blocks and Crites had 3, while Dzurick had 17 assists and junior Aliyah Walker had 12.
At Thayer, the Lady Tigers did post their sixth sweep of 2021, dispatching the host Lady Bobcats 25-13, 25-15, 25-13.
Houston hit .229 as a team and had 49 digs in the SCA contest.
Smith led the Lady Tigers’ attack with 12 kills, while senior Dzurick had 7 and Pritchett smacked 6.
Foster had 4 aces for Houston, while Dzurick had 10 digs and 13 assists, Brookshire notched 9 digs and Walker put up 13 assists.
In notching their seventh sweep of the season on Monday, the Lady Tigers downed Eminence 25-16, 25-16, 25-10.
Smith bashed 13 kills in the game and compiled a robust .458 attacking percentage, while Crites nailed 9 kills and had a .350 attacking percentage.
Senior Night activities took place after the contest, recognizing Dzurick, Brookshire, Purcell, Jordyn Lay, Paige Dennis and Lili Amick.
“I’m so thankful for all these six seniors have done for the program,” Richardson said. “They have all played different roles on this team over the years and have left a mark on their teammates and the program. We wish them the best in whatever they choose to do next year.”
Winners of 9 straight sets, the Lady Tigers (12-2-1, 2-0 SCA through Monday) hit the road for two more SCA bouts this week, facing Liberty Tuesday in Mountain View and taking on county rival Cabool on Thursday (Sept. 30).
“We’ve struggled lately with missing serves and bringing energy to every game,” Richardson said. “I will say I’m proud of the way the girls have still been handling their business. They’ve gotten it done night after night, even when things are a little flat.
“We’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up so hopefully we can tighten it up.”
The Lady Tigers will host the inaugural Houston Volleyball Showdown Saturday in the new gym.
The 8-team tournament includes Houston, Bradleyville, Plato and Thayer in Pool A, while Pool B features Bourbon, Mansfield, Mountain Grove and Willow Springs.
Pool play is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., and will include 2-set games. The top two teams in each pool will advance to best-of-3 bracket games.