By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Fans of the Licking Wildcats and Mountain Grove Panthers got their money’s worth in a match-up that came down to the wire Tuesday night, with Licking edging out the competition.
“They fought hard,” said Licking head coach Angela Barton of her young team, which featured three freshmen. “They’re fighters and they’re hungry, and it’s exciting because we have them for a couple more years.”
The teams were tied early in the first game, but Licking jumped out to an eight-point lead, allowing just four points and scoring twelve of their own, 19-11. By capitalizing on Mtn. Grove’s service errors and their own Grace Bonnell coming up with key blocks, the Wildcats took the first set, 25-18.
The second game was much like the first, but the Panthers came out on top this time, 25-18. Grace Moore helped the host team with three aces to take the initial lead, and Kacey Watson and Marly Gourley added timely kills for the win.
Game three was back and forth until 17 all, when Mtn. Grove scored three unanswered points. Licking did the same to tie it up again, 20-20, and the point exchange continued until tied at 24. That’s when Licking’s Grace Bonnell came up with a huge kill to take the lead, and Kamryn Barnes followed it up with an ace for the 26-24 victory.
Coach Barton credited the team effort with the victory. “It is going to take all of them all year long to get it done because they’re always going to play bigger teams,” she said. “I think they’re convinced they are the David to the Goliath and they are going to fight and believe they will win.”
Mountain Grove head coach Amy McNew said she thought her team fought hard following the first set.
“We just have to learn to finish games,” she said. “We struggle with that a lot after we work really hard to get a lead or to fight back. We just have to do it a few times for them to know they can.”
Marly Gourley led the team with assists with 16, and Kinley Collins had 8 kills and Grace Moore, 7.
Both teams hit the road Thursday; the 2-1 Wildcats travel to Steelville and the 2-6-1 Panthers play at Republic.