A single point in large part determined the Houston High School volleyball team’s destiny at last Saturday’s annual Cabool Invitational tournament.
The Lady Tigers were undefeated in the event, going 4-0-1, but a tie with Willow Springs in pool play led to their fate. Each pool play game was limited to 2 sets, and Houston split their matchup with Willow 19-25, 25-20. With the 1-point margin of victory advantage, the Lady Bears advanced to the championship bracket and the Lady Tigers went into the consolation bracket.
Willow Springs went on to beat Licking for the tournament championship, while Houston won the consolation bracket, downing Hollister in the bracket final.
The 15-team event featured three 5-team pools. In pool play, the Lady Tigers beat Bunker 25-23, 25-14, tied Willow Springs, topped Chadwick 25-11, 25-19 and beat Salem 25-21, 25-16. As the top No. 2 squad from the pools, Houston had a bye in the first round of bracket play and then swept Hollister 25-22, 25-22.
“I thought overall we had a great day,” said HHS head coach Julia Sloan. “It stinks that one point kept us from playing for the championship, but it also teaches us we have to be consistent every game. One missed serve, one bad pass, one hit out can hurt you in the long run. I always tell the girls, every point matters and this proved that.
“I’m so proud of them though. I felt we fought every game and I feel like we’re clicking. I think we’re just going up from here.”
HAPPY ON THE HOME COURT
Houston swept two opponents last week in best 3-out-of-5 games in Tiger Fieldhouse, beating Plato on Tuesday (25-9, 25-5, 25-21) and Conway on Thursday (25-11, 25-10, 25-12).
The contest against Plato lasted only about an hour, as the Lady Tigers took advantage of a superior power game to keep rallies short, while also serving up numerous aces to race to the straight sets victory.
Senior outside hitter Angie Smith led Houston’s offensive onslaught, slamming a whopping 8 kills in the first set alone.
Houston ran away early in the second set, as senior Anna Gale banged four consecutive aces at the outset to put Houston ahead 4-0. Smith, junior Morgan McKinney and sophomore Gracyn McNiell also delivered aces in the set.
The Lady Tigers built a 17-8 lead in the third set when sophomore setter Kayla Wagner scored on a perfectly-place two-hand shot to open space in the back-right corner of Plato’s side of the net.
The visiting Lady Eagles then mounted a spirited comeback and tied the score at 20-all on back-to-back aces by junior Taryne Scott.
But Houston regained the momentum and went ahead 24-21 on another ace by Gale and completed the sweep on a mistake by Plato.
Six different Lady Tigers smacked kills in the win, with Smith finishing with 17 and Wagner banging a career-high 8. Gale ended up with 5 aces, while Smith and McNiell had 9 digs apiece and senior Kelsey Pritchett was credited with 1 block.
Conway provided a slightly stiffer challenge and scored in double-figures in all three sets, but the deeper Lady Tigers had little trouble earning their third straight win.
Smith and Pritchett each had 10 kills in the game (with Pritchett recording a career-high), while Wagner had a career-high 21 assists and junior Makinley Aaron served up 4 aces.
Houston (7-1-1 through last week) begins South Central Association conference play this week by hosting Salem on Tuesday and traveling to Mountain Grove for a key SCA game on Thursday (Sept. 21). The squad will be busy again next week, hosting a nonconference game against Eminence on Monday, and then hitting the road for SCA games Tuesday at Thayer and Thursday at Liberty.