Houston sophomore Kayla Wagner (26) and senior Kelsey Pritchett (16) leap to defend against a ball hit by Licking junior Zoey Dawson during the Lady Tigers' loss Tuesday in Tiger Fieldhouse. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

After winning the first set, the Houston High School volleyball team came up empty the rest of the way, as the Lady Tigers fell in four sets in their season-opening game against Licking Tuesday in Tiger Fieldhouse.

Houston prevailed 25-22 in the first set, but the visiting Lady Wildcats controlled the rest of the game, winning 25-16 in the second set and 25-11 in the third before closing out the victory in the best-of-5 contest with a 25-14 win in the fourth set.

The Lady Tigers came out fired up for their matchup with their county rivals, and led 11-4 in the first set after sophomore middle hitter Kynlee Weaver scored on a nicely-placed tip shot at the net.

Lady Tigers players prepare for a serve. From left, Angie Smith, Maddie Holder, Morgan McKinney and Kynlee Weaver.

Licking rallied and closed the gap to 2 points moments later, but Houston held on and took the set on a pair of late kills by senior outside hitter Angie Smith.

The Lady Wildcats turned the tables in the second set, taking an 8-1 lead with an outburst including 2 aces by senior Riley Moloney and another by junior Ralee Clayton, before cruising to the set victory.

The two teams traded runs early in the third set. Houston jumped out to a 3-0 advantage, but Licking then scored 8 straight points to take an 8-3 lead. The Lady Tigers answered with 4 straight to pull within a point at 8-7, but they scored only 4 more points in the set while the Lady Wildcats added 17.

Houston went on top 6-4 early in the fourth set, but behind senior outside hitter Hannah Medlock, Licking outscored the Lady Tigers 21-8 the rest of the way to secure the win. Medlock had a huge game for the Lady Wildcats, but was even bigger down the stretch, recording 4 kills and 2 aces in the final set.

“Tough loss,” said HHS head coach Julia Sloan. “We just have to play consistent and not beat ourselves. The first set was great; we just have to keep the momentum and not let one mistake get to us.” 

Smith led Houston’s offense with a continuous onslaught of hard-hit balls from her position on the left side of the court, and scored almost at will at times. She finished with 18 kills and 20 digs.

Senior middle hitter Kelsey Pritchett had 5 kills for Houston, while sophomore libero Gracyn McNiell recorded 14 digs, junior setter Morgan McKinney had 13 assists and sophomore setter Kayla Wagner served up 2 aces.

Next Tuesday, the Lady Tigers (0-1) hit the road for a nonconference game at Summersville.

Houston volleyball super-fans Owen Wells, left, and Shaun Buck showed their spirit during the Lady Tigers’ home game against Licking on Tuesday. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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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