Houston Christian hoping to set up successful SPC campaign
Houston Christian coach Kris Lartigue admitted it wasn’t much fun watching last year’s Southwest Preparatory Conference girls volleyball finals.
“Seeing Austin St. Stephen’s play John Cooper was painful,” said Lartigue of the Mustangs’ two South Zone rivals. “We beat them during the regular season and I thought we were the better team. I really felt we deserved to be there.”
Instead, Houston Christian, which was knocked out by John Cooper in the semifinals, settled for third place.
Lartigue, who has led the Mustangs to SPC Final Four appearances two of the past three years, is hoping for a different outcome this season.
“We want to make it back and win the whole tournament,” Lartigue said, “but we have to be fundamentally sound and take advantage of our opportunities when they’re there.”
Houston Christian’s results have been solid so far this season, with several wins over quality teams.
The Mustangs placed 15th out of 88 teams at Pearland’s Adidas Volleyball Invitational, notching victories over Austin Westlake, Dallas Ursuline and Magnolia.
Houston Christian also won the Houston Open hosted by the Houston Skyline Juniors, knocking off Dallas Greenhill in the semifinals and Victoria St. Joseph in the finals. The Mustangs also picked up non-conference wins over Westside and Fort Bend Christian, last year’s Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class 4A state runner-up.
More recently, Houston Christian swept Lutheran South 25-15, 25-20, 25-12 to run its record to 13-5.
Ever the perfectionist, Lartigue acknowledges that he pushes his players extremely hard.
“When we were playing Lutheran South, the coaches and I were jotting down all the things the girls were doing wrong,” Lartigue said. “Then I looked up at the scoreboard and we’re ahead 20-9 in one of the sets. We’re obviously doing a lot of things right.”
But Lartigue makes no apology for driving his team to reach its immense potential.
Houston Christian returns a pair of all-SPC performers – seniors Claire Karsten and Bree Perry.
Karsten, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, already has committed to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She is the Mustangs’ leader in kills, racking up 13 against Lutheran South.
“Claire isn’t afraid to swing big, but we’re teaching her to mix things up. It’s not all about power,” Lartigue said. “Claire is becoming a more wellrounded player.”
The 5-9 ½ Perry is one of the conference’s finest setters. Perry is an early commit to St. Mary’s University.
“Bree not only directs the ball well, but she plays excellent back-row defense,” Lartigue said.
Other seniors include 5-8 libero Caitlin Clarke and 6-1 middle blocker/ right side hitter Lauren Skrobarcyzk. Clarke and Skrobarczyk inked with Wake Forest University and Trinity University, respectively.
Also in the main rotation are freshman Kayla Daly, a 6-1 middle blocker, and sophomore Samantha Leverenz, a 5-9 outside hitter.
Next up for the Mustangs is a road match against Fort Bend Christian at 6 p.m. Monday.
But Lartigue’s main goal is getting Houston Christian ready for its first South Zone contest against San Antonio St. Mary’s Hall later this month. The Mustangs will be among the favorites along with defending SPC champ Austin St. Stephen’s and John Cooper.
“That’s when it really counts,” Lartigue said of the conference opener.