Each week Ozarks Sports Zone ranks the top teams in Southwest Missouri based on dominance by class, essentially the pound-for-pound comparison of those teams compared to the best in the state. Rankings are sponsored by CoxHealth. Below, you’ll also find our awards for last week’s top performances. If you’d like to nominate a player for Big Man on Campus, please forward stats and information to email@example.com.
1. Strafford (C2: 7-1)
Strafford has won 30-plus games in each of the last three seasons and the Lady Indians seem poised to make it four straight. Wins over Lee’s Summit and Branson, both Class 4 programs, is impressive. Strafford’s lone loss came against Northland Christian, the reigning Class 1 champs, in the semifinals of the Branson Tournament. A trip to Osceola is on the schedule this week. The addition of Madi Bowles – to go along with all that Strafford returns – makes this arguably the Ozarks best chance at a state championship.
2. Willard (C4: 8-0)
The Lady Tigers have beaten everyone in front of them so far without a single match needing an extra set. That’s impressive. They defended their home court by winning the Lori Endicott Invitational last weekend, beating Aurora in the championship. Willard also owns wins over MV-BT/Liberty, Fair Grove and Winona. Kara Finkbiner, a four-year starter, had 36 kills, 40 digs and six aces last week to lead the way. Non-conference matchups with Bolivar and Glendale will be nice barometer games this week.
3. Fair Grove (C2: 6-1-2)
Fair Grove is back and doing Fair Grove things. The Lady Eagles took third at the Lori Endicott Invitational with their only loss coming to Willard in the semifinals. Fair Grove has impressive wins over Clever, Winona, and Bolivar. In fact, they’d be the COC Small champs if they were in the conference with wins over four of those teams. Rematches with Rogersville and Buffalo – both on the road – should be interesting.
4. Eminence (C1: 3-0)
They’ve only played three games, but it’s been three dominating performances for Eminence with sweeps against Clearwater, Viburnum and Salem. Senior Wendy Smith had double-digit kills in each of those games. Things will get emotional this week with rivals MV-BT/Liberty and Winona on the schedule.
5. Kickapoo (C4: 6-2)
Trying to separate Kickapoo and Ozark is extremely difficult. The two volleyball factories have split a pair of meetings, both of which were 2-0 sweeps. Kickapoo beat Ozark on Tuesday, just three days after the Tigers beat Poo in Arkansas. Kickapoo also has wins over Rogersville and Republic, as well as a Har-Ber team that beat Ozark. This is the best team in the Ozark Conference right now.
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6. Ozark (C4: 6-3)
Ozark has been the most dominant large-class volleyball program in the Ozarks for the better part of a decade. Early wins over Glendale and Kickapoo show that may not be changing anytime soon. The Lady Tigers did drop the rematch to Kickapoo earlier this week. The best performance of their season was a five-set showdown with nationally-ranked Fayetteville (Ark.). Hosting Rogersville on Tuesday will be a must-see game.
7. Miller (C1: 10-0)
Miller had a sensational 2016 season end with a district championship loss and the Lady Cardinals are apparently looking for revenge. They’ve seen 10 opponents and sent them all home with an L so far, including SRVC rivals Lockwood and Sarcoxie. They won the Verona Invitational on Saturday. This will be a light week with just Lockwood on the docket.
8. Winona (C1: 5-3)
Francie McBride continues to put together one of the toughest schedules in Southwest Missouri, which is why her program has become a Class 1 power. Their three losses have come against some of the best in the Ozarks, all from bigger classes (Aurora, Fair Grove, Willard). They will lose more games throughout the season, likely against much larger schools, but don’t be distracted by the number in the loss column; this is still one of Class 1’s best.
9. Aurora (C3: 6-2-1)
The Lady Houns have been impressive to start the season. They finished 2nd in the Lori Endicott Invitational, with their lone loss coming against Willard. Aurora also owns wins over Rogersville and Carthage, with a split against Fair Grove. A Big 8 game at Mount Vernon and Reeds Spring are on the schedule this week.
10. Rogersville (C3: 5-2-1)
Log-Rog might be the best two-loss team in Missouri. Even playing shorthanded, they were able to give Class 4 Kickapoo all they could handle and split with Fair Grove. Juniors Gabby Massengale and Sydney Dunavant played extremely well and received valuable reps over the last week. This is one of the best Class 3 teams in Missouri, having Fair Grove and Ozark on the schedule this week will give them a chance to prove it.
Knockin’ on the Door: Carl Junction, Clever, Nixa, Lebanon, Sarcoxie, Central, Billings, Fordland
Player of the Week: Chloe Rear, Strafford
She’s the two-time 1 Awards winner for Volleyball Player of the Year and is off to a great start in her senior season. The Missouri State commit is one of the most versatile players in Missouri. The fact that she has 66 kills with a .443 hitting percentage is cool, but even more impressive when you realize she has 56 assists and 41 digs too. She could end the year with a 300-300-200 line.
Hammer of the Week: Alana Findley, Fair Grove
The 5-foot-10 junior is easily one of the most athletic girls you’ll see this year and her first week of the season was nothing short of impressive. She leads Missouri in kills according to MaxPreps (79) and that comes with a .426 hitting percentage. Oh, Findley also has tallied 28 blocks, with four games of at least four blocks.
Shovel of the Week: Lynna Hadlock, Miller
Miller’s impressive start is centered around how good they’ve been defensively, thanks to walking floor-burn Lynna Hadlock. She’s averaged 13 digs per game, including a season-high 28 digs against Ash Grove. She’s well over 100 digs already and it’s not even September yet.
Melody Buse, Houston
Madison Grantham, Nixa
Hope White, Bolivar
Lexi Miller, Carl Junction
Myka Cook, Southwest Washburn
Leslie Jones, Pierce City
Eryn Russell, Republic
Rachel Negre, Aurora
Game of the Week: Rogersville at Ozark (Sep. 5)
On paper this might be one of the biggest games of the year. These two schools don’t like each other in any sport and volleyball is no exception. This game has zero conference or district implications, but its for pure bragging rights. Rogersville hasn’t taken a set from Ozark since 2014 and hasn’t beaten the Lady Tigers in more than a decade. Both teams went to the Final Four last year in their respective classes and the matchup of 6-foot Arkansas State commit Macey Putt and 6-foot-2 All-American Birdie Hendrickson should be pure fire.
Other notable games
Aurora at Mount Vernon
MV-BT/Liberty at Eminence
Fair Grove at Rogersville
Ozark at Jefferson City
Lockwood at El Dorado Springs
Willard at Bolivar
Rock Bridge at Nixa
Central at Branson
Rogersville at Ozark
Lebanon at Carl Junction
Eminence at Winona
Lockwood at Miller
Reeds Spring at Aurora
NOTE: If your scores are not reported to O-Zone, your team will not be considered for Power Rankings.