In the season’s first two home games, the Houston High School volleyball team posted a pair of sweeps this week.

The Lady Tigers beat Summersville 3-0 on Tuesday, taking the first set from the visiting Lady Wildcats 25-15, and then winning the second set 25-18 before completing the sweep with a 25-23 victory in a tightly-contested third set. Then on Thursday, Houston blanked Mansfield 3-0, winning sets by scores of 25-10, 25-7 and 25-6.

With senior Madi Reed serving, Houston jumped out to a 5-0 lead at the beginning of the first set against Summersville. Moments later, the Lady Tigers were on top 12-3 after several kills by high-flying, hard hitting junior outside hitter Angie Smith.

The Lady Wildcats regrouped and held their own through the rest of the set, but Houston won it on a kill by senior middle hitter Olivia Crites.

Summersville took a 3-1 lead early in the second set, and the two squads battled back-and-forth until the score was tied at 11. But the Lady Tigers built a 23-18 advantage on an ace by Smith and then finished a 14-7 run and closed out the set victory on a block by junior Kelsey Pritchett.

The Lady Tigers went ahead early in the third set, and then held a 12-6 lead after senior Makenzi Arthur blasted hard serves for a pair of aces.

Summersville responded with an 11-4 run and led 17-16 after junior Kaytlin Martin won a battle at the net for a point.

HHS senior Makenzi Arthur (5) and junior Kelsey Pritchett (16) rise at the net to defend against a ball hit by Summersville junior Kaytlin Martin during the first set of the Lady Tigers’ win Tuesday in Houston.

Both teams maintained the intensity from there, and fought tooth-and-nail during a rally lasting more than 2 minutes that was won by the Lady Wildcats to put the score at 21-19 in favor of Houston.

With the crowd going wild, Summersville sophomore Elizabeth Havens scored a point on a block and the Lady Tigers’ held a slim lead at 24-23. But Houston completed the sweep when Crites got another set-ending kill.

Smith frequently pounded the ball into open space on Summerville’s side of the net and finished with a season-high 14 kills in the contest, while also recording 9 digs, 2 aces and a 2.04 passing rating. Crites had 8 kills in the game, while Arthur had 13 assists, 13 digs and 3 aces.

As she continues a sparking freshman season for Houston, Kayla Wagner recorded 10 assists and 2 aces in the game.

HHS freshman Kayla Wagner, right, and senior Olivia Crites share a light-hearted moment during the first set of the Lady Tigers’ win over Summersville Tuesday in Houston.

“The girls are starting to get more comfortable on the court and did some great things,” said HHS head coach Loran Richardson. “We started really strong and took care of business.

“Moving forward, we have to continue to improve our passing game. We struggle in this area due to our inexperience and lack of communication at times. I know we will get there as long as we continue to focus on improvement.”

The Lady Tigers responded in the contest with Mansfield by producing their best passing performance of the young season, finishing with a 2.33 team passing rating.

“Last night, we set a goal to focus on our passing,” Richardson said. “We know that we have to improve in that area, and I’m super proud of how we met that goal. We passed as a team and stayed consistent throughout the match.”

Against the overmatched Lady Lions, Crites banged 9 kills and compiled a robust .750 hitting percentage, while Smith also smacked 9 kills and had a .533 hitting percentage.

Crites also had 4 aces and 5 digs, while Arthur had 4 aces and 12 assists, Smith had 6 digs and a 2.56 passing rating, and the 6-1 Pritchett was credited with a block.

Winners of 9 consecutive sets, Houston (3-1) travels to Plato Tuesday and to Conway on Thursday, and will be in the field at the annual Cabool Invitational tournament on Saturday, Sept. 17.

“We’ve got to continue to build on the momentum we are starting to gain,” Richardson said.

“We’ve got to continue to build on the momentum we are starting to gain,” Richardson said.

“Things started out rough and we’ve made some mistakes along the way,” Arthur said, “but overall I feel excited about how things have gone so far. If we learn from our mistakes, trust each other and work as a team, I feel like we can make it far this year.”

“I feel like right now we are working well together,” Pritchett said. “Everyone is getting along and working hard, and if we keep improving, we will have a great season.”

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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