HHS freshman Kayla Wagner (17) and senior Olivia Crites rise to defend against a ball hit by Licking junior Maci Sparks during the Lady Tigers' season-opener. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Facing one of the toughest teams on the 2022 schedule, the Houston High School volleyball team fell 3-0 in the season-opener Tuesday night at Licking.

The deep and talented host Lady Wildcats had a relatively easy time in the first two sets, taking the first set 25-10 and the second 25-15. The Lady Tigers remained focused and came close in third set, but Licking prevailed 25-23.

Led by the senior duo of middle hitter Abbie Sullins and outside hitter Maci Sparks, the Lady Wildcats’ front line caused problems for Houston throughout the contest on offense and defense. Meanwhile, the Lady Tigers’ offense frequently made unforced errors (especially in the first two sets) and struggled to get the ball in position to hammer it to the floor on the other side of the net.

HHS senior Olivia Crites gets her hands up to defend against a ball hit by Licking senior Abbie Sullins during the Lady Tigers’ road loss in last week’s season opener.

“It was a rough night for us,” said HHS head coach Loran Richardson. “We weren’t aggressive the first two sets and tipped way too much. We can’t do that against a good team and expect to score.

“But we got better each set and finally started competing in the third set.”

Senior middle hitter Olivia Crites had 6 kills in the contest for the Lady Tigers, while junior outside hitter Angie Smith had 5, along with 14 digs and a 2.25 passing rating.

HHS senior setter Makenzi Arthur recorded 9 assists and a pair of aces, while junior Kelsey Pritchett had a block and freshman Kayla Wagner had an ace.

“We have to see this as a learning opportunity and come back better and stronger from it,” Richardson said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and I know we will get there by the end of the season.”

Houston travels to Cuba on Thursday and hosts Summersville on Tuesday (Sept. 6).

Houston’s junior varsity squad also lost at Licking, 25-20, 25-9.

Wagner had 2 kills and 3 aces in the contest, while Maddie Holder and Izzy Pena had 1 kill apiece and Cadence Wade had an ace.

The night began with a full C-team game, with Houston winning in straight sets, 25-21, 25-12. The freshman Lady Tigers recorded 10 kills, 11 aces and 1 block.

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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