ARCANUM — It’s tough enough to have consistent success in the Shelby County Athletic League since so many teams in the league are good each year, but it’s especially tough when four starters are injured.
Houston has missed as many as four players at the same time due to injury this season but is healthy and on a roll in the tournament.
After the Wildcats lost their last seven regular season matches, they beat both Botkins and Twin Valley South in three sets over the past week to set up a rematch with Fort Loramie in a Division IV sectional final on Wednesday at Arcanum High School.
“We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity,” Houston coach Misty Allen said after a 25-17, 25-13 and 25-16 win over Twin Valley South on Saturday. “… I had both my middle (hitters) out at one point. One (Jessica Monnier) is still out with a knee injury, and the one just came back today from a shoulder injury, Allisen Foster. She missed the whole second go-around of our County League play.”
Foster had seven kills and a solo block on Saturday and will get chance to see Fort Loramie again on Saturday.
The Redskins (14-10) beat Houston (7-17) in three sets both times the teams played in regular season, and junior Hannah Bixler knows a win over Loramie would require a big effort.
“We’ve got to have good passing and hit the ball where they aren’t,” Bixler said. “We’ve got to get them out of their system and be tough.”
Bixler, a right side hitter, seems to know a bit about toughness — she’s been playing with two broken toes for the last few weeks.
“It feels fine, I just play,” Bixler said. “It didn’t bother me. I just hopped right back in. …At first I was taping them normal, and then I got tired of not playing, so I just hopped right back in.”
Allen said Bixler missed the last three games of regular season but has been a welcome addition in Houston’s tournament run. Bixler had eight digs and one kill on Saturday.
“She’s playing missing two toes, bless her heart,” Allen said. “She’s one of a few girls playing through some injuries, and I think it’s great that they can push through that. That takes a lot of mental toughness, and I think that shows.”
Houston started its tournament run with a 25-16, 25-20 and 25-21 win over Botkins last Tuesday. Botkins won the first SCAL match between the schools, but the Wildcats won the second on Sept. 26.
“That definitely gave us some motivation to want to continue and keep this up,” Bixler said. “We went in knowing that we could win, and that if we did win, we could do big things. Now we’re going to do big things.”
Allen said beating a league rival to start tournament play was a triumph for the team.
“Especially since we had won the last time we played them, it’s hard for a team to win two times in a row,” Allen said. “And with both our middle hitters out that game, it was tough. But that says a lot about how our girls stepped up. I think they made a statement.
“This is a super sectional with 27 teams, and without a doubt I think we’re the most competitive league. Even though we’re the 16th seed, it just shows that it’s who you play in season that makes you who you are. We have a competitive league, and that makes us better.”
Sarah Monnier led Houston with nine kills and had 12 digs against Twin Valley South. Olivia Bowser had seven kills and one block, Amber Stangel had 16 digs and Alyssa Kemp had 27 assists and five kills.
“It was truly a team effort,” Allen said. “I’m so proud of the way they played.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.