Despite their best efforts, Houston Academy officials couldn’t get the sound system to work before the start of Thursday’s home volleyball match against Geneva at Killingsworth Gym.
It was one of the few things that didn’t go right for Houston Academy.
Dominating early and often, the Raiders rolled to a 25-7, 25-10, 25-9 Class 3A, Area 3 win over a young Panther team.
The Raiders, ranked fifth in the state in Class 3A, improved to 8-3, while Geneva fell to 4-3. It was the opening area match for both teams.
“I am very pleased with the way the girls came out super strong and did their job,” Houston Academy head coach Vanessa Howell said. “We have been working on staying on top, staying ahead and not letting down in the middle of the test.
“They executed that, especially in the first and third sets. The second set got a little shaky at the beginning but then they were able to get back (to playing strong). We are working on consistency throughout, which is hard because it is a game of errors, but I felt they did a pretty good job of staying consistent.”
The Raiders finished strong in all three sets to pull away. They scored the last 13 points of the first set, 12 of the last 13 in the second set and the last seven of the third and final set.
The match was played at 2 p.m. in front of Houston Academy students, including a rowdy elementary bunch that often chanted, “Raiders, Raiders,” during the match.
“The girls got an extra boost of confidence with all the fans and especially the kids,” Howell said. “They (the kids) brought extra energy. The girls came out like they wanted to please the crowd and fed off the crowd.
“ I am so thankful for everyone that came out and supported us. They (the younger elementary kids) did a phenomenal job of cheering us on. ”
On the other side, it was a rough day for Geneva, which returns only two starters from last year and has only two seniors this year. The Panthers led only once, and especially had issues in service receiving. Houston Academy finished with 16 aces and many of Geneva’s dig efforts off Raider serves went out of bounds.
“I felt the girls overall did a good job of serving,” Howell said. “They were aggressive. They were placing it well.”
Caroline Nelson, one of five Raider seniors, had five of the aces, while freshman Carryne Chancey had four. Irina Martin, another senior, along with junior Lizzy Kate Skinner had three each. Mattie Havas, a junior, had the other ace.
“I don’t call serves for most of them because I want them to look at the court and make the decisions,” Howell said. “I teach them patterns of where to serve and let them go for those zones. There are three or four areas we want to serve in and wherever they feel confident they will serve in that area. They did a good job with that.”
Geneva’s rough day started from its opening serve, which went into the net. Two straight Panther hitting errors on kill attempts – one going long out of bounds, the other out of bounds on the side – gave HA a quick 3-0 lead.
It was 4-2 when the Raiders began to pull away, scoring seven of eight to go up 11-3. Two kills and an ace by Martin highlighted the run.
The Panthers closed to 12-7 off a couple of HA errors, but the Raiders ripped off 13 straight points to finish it out 25-7. Nelson and Havas both had two kills and Havas had two blocks in the spurt, which also featured an ace from Skinner and a kill from setter Ashlyn Conner off a fake set.
Houston Academy grabbed a quick 2-0 lead to start the second set with Nelson earning an ace on one of the points. The Raiders extended the margin to 5-1, but Geneva, in one of its better spurts on the day, came back to tie it at 6-6. An ace by Daydee Holt and a nicely placed two-hand touch shot to HA’s back end by Addyson Martin sparked Geneva.
The Raiders edged back in front with three straight points, the last an ace by Martin, and stayed in front two to four points over several serving rotations.
Chancey, the freshman, then busted the set open for HA earning four aces during a string of seven straight points, taking the margin to 21-9.
“Carryne came in and just nailed it,” Howell said. “Her serve is tough. It goes right on top of the net and comes right on you. It is a tough serve. I was proud of her for serving in that situation as she is just a ninth grader. She had a good run.”
A HA double-hit violation stopped the Chancey run, but the Raiders answered with four straight points after that, including two aces by Nelson, to end the set, 25-10.
A Raider hitting violation to open the third set gave Geneva a 1-0 lead, but it would be the Panthers’ only advantage of the day as HA rattled off six straight points to seize the momentum back. Nelson had a couple of aces and Conner earned a cross-court kill in the run.
Houston Academy was never threatened after that, maintaining a five to nine-point margin before scoring the final seven points to win the set 25-9.
For the match, HA’s Conner had five kills, 17 assists and two digs, Nelson had six kills to go with her five aces and Martin had four kills and six digs to go with her three aces. Havas had four kills and three blocks in addition to her one ace. Caley Caldwell had a team-high six digs and also had two assists. Branham Hewes added two digs. Nelson, Martin, Hewes and Rachel Watson had one block each.
Madison Johnson led Geneva with four assists and three kills and Chloe Nance had four kills and two assists. Emma Griffin had two kills and Holt had the lone ace.
Houston Academy JV sweeps: Houston Academy’s junior varsity team earned a 25-14, 25-21 win over Geneva.
Abby Caldwell had 13 assists, an ace and a kill, Marley Conner had four aces and two kills and Tamir Henexon had one kill for HA.