By Chris Parker
Houston is looking to bounce back from a five-win season led by first-team all-conference senior Melody Buse.
“Mel is a tough competitor,” Houston head coach Loran Richardson said. “She will go above and beyond to make herself and her teammates better. She will stay after practice to work on things and will do extra work on her own to improve. She is a strong leader for us and I expect her to continue that into her senior year and become an even stronger defensive player.”
She led the team 344 digs last year and was the in the serve-receive game. Buse had 372 serve receptions with just 13 errors on the season. Her 12.8 receptions per match were more than twice as many as any other player for Houston.
Senior Alexis Choate and junior Janae Huff each eclipsed 100 assists last season with 133 and 103, respectively. The two setter option gives Houston versatility in the offensive game.
“It’s nice to have two girls that lead a balanced offense and that I can trust to get the job done,” Richardson said. “I can put any hitter with them and they can make the adjustment.”
Senior Kennedy Campbell will be the leader of that offensive attack as a middle hitter. She was second on the team with 95 kills last season.
“Kennedy has the potential to be one of the strongest middles in the conference,” Richardson said. “She has a nice high attack and has really improved with her blocking. I expect her to improve on her transition, which will help her become even more involved in the offense.”
Tara Stanton will join Campbell as a middle hitter and be one of Houston’s strongest blockers . Viviann Guerra will be an outside hitter for the Lady Tigers in her junior season. Darby Bell will be a key right side hitter for Houston.
Senior defensive specialist Madison Barton and junior outside hitter Kelly Hubbs will also factor into the varsity equation.
Houston will rely on a strong senior class to improve on last season’s record.
“With six seniors, I expect us to be more consistent this year and more competitive,” Richardson said. “We have the ability to be much improved but we have to be able to handle the pressure. I’m excited about this season and have really seen the girls grow and improve over the last couple years.”
Houston opens the season on Aug. 25 at the Branson Tournament.