A team that appears to be loaded with tools is about to embark on a potentially memorable season.
And it will happen under a new coach.
The Houston High School girls basketball team will be led this season by Lindsey Vermillion, a physical education teacher who will be in her first stint as a head coach. After a successful high school career at Van Buren, Vermillion played college ball at Williams Baptist University in Arkansas, and then was an assistant coach for six years at Van Buren.
She will be the second female head coach in the history of HHS basketball, following in the footsteps of Sherry Henry, who helped launch the Lady Tigers program in 1977.
“I’m excited to get started,” Vermillion said. “It’s stressful and exciting, but I’m loving every minute of being the head girls basketball coach at HHS. I’m surrounded by amazing people every day and I’m living my dream of being a head coach, to finally start building a program.”
Last year under head coach Brent Kell, the Lady Tigers went 13-11 overall and 3-4 in South Central Association play. Their season ended with a loss at Steelville in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 9 Tournament.
This year’s version of the team features several experienced players, including junior forward Olivia Crites, who received both All-District and All-Conference recognition last season, and senior guard Hannah Dzurick, who earned All-District honors last year. Also in the fold are multiple players who have had significant roles last season, including junior guard Katie Jo Chipps, junior forward Karlee Curtis and sophomore guard Angie Smith.
“The girls have been working really hard the past two weeks,” Vermillion said. “I believe we can do amazing things this year; we have the personnel and talent to be very competitive, and we just have to keep building our confidence and believe that we can win some big games this year.”
Vermillion said the Lady Tigers will play with a relentless, up-tempo style.
“I’m a fast-paced coach and they love to push the ball and run,” she said. “I’m a very energetic and loud coach and these girls are very energetic, so our practices are loud and fast paced, which is very important.
“I believe a quiet gym is a losing gym and that’s not the Houston Lady Tigers.”
Vermillion said she figures eight or nine girls will play significant minutes on a regular basis. The squad’s bench will allow her to insert several players with experience, athleticism and even height, including 6-foot senior Sarah Purcell, junior guards Aliyah Walker, Makenzie Arthur and Madi Riley, junior forward Mackenzie Bryan and senior guard Jordyn Lay.
“In my opinion, every single girl on that bench is just as vital as the five girls that are playing at that moment,” Vermillion said. “My bench will be louder than anyone in the stands. When you walk into the gym, I want the spectators to hear my bench and my girls talking on the floor. It’s little details like that that separates good teams from great teams.
“Every single girl on the Lady Tiger team plays a vital role in this program.”
At least some form of leadership will come from everyone, Vermillion said.
“Every single girl on this team should be a leader in some aspect,” she said. “I shouldn’t just have one or two leaders, I should have 16 leaders.”
The Lady Tigers saw their first action against other teams on Monday of this week by hosting a jamboree featuring SCA foes Cabool and Willow Springs. The squad’s first game is set for next week at the annual Fordland Invitational tournament.
“This group is dedicated to getting better every single day,” Vermillion said.
Like her players, the team’s new coach has some high expectations for the upcoming campaign.
“I want the fans to know that these girls are working very hard,” Vermillion said. “I’m new to this town and school, and the girls, so it will take some time for them to get used to my style of coaching. I think this season could be very special but it is going to take work every single day. A conference or district title is not won overnight, though I believe it can be accomplished this year. It’s ultimately up to the Lady Tiger basketball team and how bad they want it.
“I believe we are on the right track, and I’m so excited to get started and I know the girls are, too. I cannot wait to see the fans cheering them on!”
To view a photo gallery from the jamboree (with the option to purchase photos), click here.