Houston ’12 gives spark to 12-3 Big Green volleyball

As the Dartmouth women’s volleyball team continues to build on its fantastic 12-3 start, Kendall Houston ’12, who leads the team (12-3, 3-1 Ivy) with 376 assists on the year, is doing everything she can to help push the Big Green toward an Ivy League championship.

Though Houston has started for the volleyball team since her freshman year, captain Jessie Hartman ’11 has seen Houston’s development first-hand and believes she continues to improve.

“She has always been a very dynamic player,” Hartman said. “She has always been a force since the beginning. With that being said, she has gotten much better at making big game-changing decisions over the course of her career. She has learned how to better take control of the team, and that has helped us win some key games this year.”

The majority of Houston’s assists go to teammate Madeline Baird ’12, who leads the Big Green with 219 kills this season. Baird and Houston both hail from Austin, Texas, where they competed against each other at rival high schools in the same district. In their senior years, however, Baird’s team went 2-0 over Houston’s.

“We’ve known each other since we were 11 years old,” Houston said. “It’s definitely been a bit strange playing with her in club volleyball, against her in high school volleyball and now with her in college. But I’m glad she’s on my team now, she’s extremely talented.”

For a period of time during her career at Stephen F. Austin High School, Houston was uncertain where she wanted to play college volleyball.

“My junior and part of my senior year I had committed to play volleyball for the University of Georgia verbally,” Houston said. “After my visit to Dartmouth though, I realized that Hanover is a beautiful place and Dartmouth was just a better fit for me both athletically and academically.”

Both Hartman and head coach Ann Marie Larese said that Houston’s versatility as an offensive weapon makes her special on the court. A typical setter is limited to the role of distributor, sharing the ball amongst her teammates.

“[Houston’s] offensive role is so strong not just because she’s a setter but more because she has been an offensive weapon to both dump the ball and serve aces,” Larese said. “She is an anomaly in that regard. She maximizes her offensive potential by having the highest vertical jump on the team.”

Off the court, Houston is equally as influential serving as a role model for the younger classes of volleyball players on the team. Larese describes her as a fun-loving kid who approaches the game with 100 percent effort, and an ideal Dartmouth student.

“As a junior now, I am in a position of leadership for the younger players,” Houston said. “I try to provide a good example for the younger players and instill hard work ethic for all the girls. My class of juniors will be the largest senior class ever for Dartmouth volleyball with 4 players and we try to provide a core for the team.”

Baird paints a slightly different picture.

“We all joke that Kendall is like a puppy,” Baird said. “She is friendly, energetic and fun, but by the end of the day she needs her rest.”

Houston and the rest of the Dartmouth volleyball team will take to the road this weekend with a game in Philadelphia to take on the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and in Princeton to take on the Princeton University Tigers.

Since Princeton is currently atop the Ivy League standings and the Quakers are the current defending Ivy League champions, this road trip will serve as a real test for the Big Green.

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