The Houston High School 2022 varsity volleyball team. Front row, from left, Kayla Wagner, Anna Gale, Jazmine Johnson and Madi Reed. Back row, Makenzi Arthur, Morgan McKinney, Mackenzie Bryan, Olivia Crites, Angie Smith, Kelsey Pritchett and Maddie Holder. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

There’s no denying that the Houston High School volleyball team had a fine season in 2021.

The Lady Tigers finished the campaign with an overall record of 26-6-2, won the South Central Association conference championship for the first time since 2006 and topped the 20-win mark for the first time since 2007.

Guided by head coach Loran Richardson (who is in her seventh year in the position), the squad is preparing for an encore.

“We feel really good about this current group of players, from the freshmen all the way to the varsity returners,” Richardson said. “They have really worked hard this summer and have started to gel together on the court. I think we will be competitive with anyone we face.”

The Lady Tigers have four players returning from last year’s starting lineup – including seniors Olivia Crites and Makenzi Arthur, and juniors Angie Smith and Kelsey Pritchett – as well as a few others with varsity experience.

“That will be key for us this year,” Richardson said. “They have all become smarter players and are able to understand the game at a much higher level.”

Crites and Smith were two of the team’s top attackers last season, and Crites and the 6-1 Pritchett were both defensive forces at the net.

“I think our attacking and blocking game will be strong once again,” Richardson said. “We’ve got our top attackers and blockers returning, and we were dominant at the net this summer during our camps and scrimmages. 

“Angie and Olivia have looked good all summer and I expect them to have a big year once again. And Kelsey has looked great at the net all summer. She will need to improve her attacking game to help us be successful.”

Richardson has moved Arthur to the setter role this year.

“She has a done a great job transitioning,” Richardson said, “and she has a fantastic serve.”

Plans are in place for several other players to have a positive impact on the team’s efforts, including seniors Madi Reed, Mackenzie Bryan and Jazmine Johnson, juniors Maddie Holder and Anna Gale, sophomore Morgan McKinney and freshman Kayla Wagner.

“Madi will be on the outside or right side and is a consistent player for us,” Richardson said. “Mackenzie is another strong server and can put the ball where we need her to. Jazmine will see some court time as a defensive player and is one of our hardest workers. Kayla and Morgan are two underclassmen who will be pushing for varsity time in the setter role, or possibly Kayla on the outside. And Maddie and Anna have a chance to see some court time as well.” 

Despite last season’s success, one thing was missing: A district championship. Seeded second in the Class 3 District 9 tournament, the Lady Tigers fell 3-1 to No. 3 Liberty in a semifinal contest in Houston’s dazzling New Gym.

“It was a tough loss for us,” Richardson said. “We had prepared to play in the district championship match but just came up short.” 

With this season’s new mix, the Lady Tigers will need to focus on receiving serves, Richardson said.

“We will have a new lineup out there and it will take some time to smooth out those kinks,” she said.

Richardson will be joined on the sidelines again by assistant coaches Jodie Tottingham and Tory Wade.

The HHS volleyball team is led again this year by head coach Loran Richardson, center, and assistant coaches Jodie Tottingham, left, and Tory Wade.

“They bring a lot of knowledge to the team and do a fantastic job with the JV and C teams,” Richardson said. 

The Lady Tigers will participate in a preseason jamboree next Thursday (Aug. 25) at Cabool, and kick off the regular season Tuesday, Aug. 30, at Licking. Houston’s first home game is set for Sept. 6 against Summersville.

“I’m really looking forward to this year,” Richardson said. “The girls are positive, pick each other up, and are super competitive. It makes for a really fun environment.

“I’m also super thankful for great coaches surrounding the team.”

Smith and Crites both figure fans should be pleasantly surprised by what the Lady Tigers accomplish this season.

“I think our team has potential to be very successful,” Smith said. “We have a really positive atmosphere and we come in ready to work and get better every day. This season our team is inexperienced, but people are going to be surprised on how well we work together.

“I think we’ve gotten stronger as a family this year and I can’t wait to show people what we’ve got.”

“Our team is starting to put everything together,” Crites said. “Even though we have some inexperienced players, I think we’re going to shock some people during the season.”

Players on the HHS junior varsity and C teams. Front row, from left: Carli Cummins, Lilly Kincaid, Hailie Hamilton, Riley Wilson, Maggie Wolfe, Abilena Gunter, Hannah Ennis and Madison Thomas. Back row, Sophia Crites, Kynlee Weaver, Elysia Graciano, Allie Campbell, Katy Scheets, Cadence Wade, Isabell Pena, Nola Smith, McKenzi Postlewait, Gracyn McNiell and Annabelle Westbrook.

2022 HHS VOLLEYBALL ROSTER

Varsity

Jersey no., name, grade, pos.

1. Maddie Holder, 11, OH

5. Makenzi Arthur, 12, S

9. Jazmine Johnson, 12, DS

13. Angie Smith, 11, OH

16. Kelsey Pritchett, 11, MH

17. Kayla Wagner, 19, OH

19. Madi Reed, 12, OH

21. Anna Gale, 11, DS

23. Morgan McKinney, 10, S

27. Olivia Crites, 12, MH

29. Mackenzie Bryan, 12, OH

Junior varsity/C team

2. Allie Campbell, 9, S

3. Madison Thomas, 10, DS

6. Nola Smith, 10, OH

7. Hannah Ennis, 9, OH

8. Lilly Kincaid, 9, S

10. Gracyn McNeill, 9, MH

11. Maggie Wolfe, 9, OH

12. Elysia Graciano, 10, OH

14. Kynlee Weaver, 9, MH

15. Abilena Gunter, 10, DS

18. Cadence Wade, 10, OH

20. Riley Wilson, 9, DS

22. Carli Cummins, 9, DS

24. Sophia Crites, 10, S

25. Isabell Pena, 10, MH

26. Katy Scheets, 10, OH

28. Annabelle Westbrook, 9, S

30. McKenzi Postlewait, 10, OH

Head coach: Loran Richardson

Assistant coaches: Jodie Tottingham, Tory Wade

Managers: Emily Johnston, Xander Riggs

HHS 2022 VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE

Aug. 25: Houston Jamboree (V), 5 p.m.

Aug 30: Licking (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 1: Cuba (V, JV), 5 p.m.

Sept. 6: Summersville (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 9: Mansfield (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 13: Plato (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 15: Conway (V, JV), 5 p.m.

Sept. 17: Cabool Invitational Tournament, TBA

Sept. 20: Salem (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 22: Mountain Grove (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 24: Licking JV Tournament, TBA

Sept. 26: Eminence (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 27: Thayer (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 29: Liberty (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 1: Houston Tournament, TBA

Oct. 6: Bourbon (V, JV), 5 p.m.

Oct. 8: Licking Volleyball Classic Tournament (V), TBA

Oct. 10: Dixon (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 11: Cabool (V, JV), 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 13: Ava (V, JV), TBA

Oct. 18: Willow Springs (V, JV), TBA

*Home games in bold

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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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