By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — Katelyn Fisher’s strong service game helped Kickapoo race out to an early 7-0 lead against Ozark Tuesday night, and the Lady Chiefs never looked back.
Kickapoo rolled to a straight-set victory in the team’s home opener (25-10, 25-15).
Fisher, a junior defensive specialist, put Ozark on its heels with a pair of aces during the initial rally.
“I was really nervous at first, especially since I don’t normally start the process,” Fisher said. “I try not to think about it too much, because I didn’t want to mess myself up. I just had to get over my fears and put the ball in the court as best as I could.”
Kickapoo head coach Marci Johnson praised her team’s ability to set the tone from the service line.
“We talk about our service being our first weapon and the first chance we have at scoring points,” Johnson said. “So, we try to go after it with accuracy and also some tempo. Fisher’s got a nice flow, she’s confident back there and just finds a spot to put it in the court and give us a chance.”
Hannah Tadlock’s kill finally got Ozark on the board; however, the Lady Tigers were unable to build any sort of momentum against a staunch Kickapoo defense.
With eight games already played this season, the Lady Chiefs’ poise and experience were difficult to overcome.
“I think for us, it’s as much seeing the game as it is playing the game,” Johnson said. “Trying to be a step ahead with our vision, being in the right spot and rely on each other. That trust between players on defense is so important.”
Tayte Kozlowski led the Lady Chiefs’ attack with 13 kills and 11 digs.
The senior all-state selection was efficient and effective in picking her spots.
“I really worked to not get into my head and not try to just get huge kills,” Kozlowski said. “I wanted to score points in unique ways instead of just slamming the ball. I know that Ozark has a lot of big blockers up there at the net, so I really worked on my angles and working around the block.”
Lauren Faria led Kickapoo with 23 assists, while Lauren Forbes added 7 kills and 10 digs.
WIth a new-look varsity roster, Ozark head coach Adeana Brewer knew Kickapoo would present a difficult challenge; however, she didn’t anticipate her team’s inconsistent play.
“We know what to expect from Kickapoo,” Brewer said. “We were prepared to play defense against heavy-ball hitters, but we had disconnect — things that we could control, we weren’t controlling. We let balls hit the floor. We let balls hit between us. We were just very disorganized.”
After the loss, Brewer stressed the importance of her team building leadership, communication and trust from within.
“We talk a lot about moving on to the next ball,” Brewer said. “I think that same concept of moving forward and learning from a mistake; we have to apply it to this match. To move forward and be successful, they have to figure out how to unify. They’ve got to figure out how to play together and feed off each other instead of playing individual volleyball.”
Ozark was led by Tadlock’s 4 kills, Ella Scott’s 14 assists and Kinsey McAllister’s 22 digs.
Both teams hit the road for matches on Thursday, Sep. 12. Kickapoo (7-1) travels to Rolla, while Ozark (1-1) visits Jefferson City.
Varsity final: Kickapoo – 2, Ozark – 0 (25-10, 25-15)
JV final: Ozark – 2, Kickapoo – 0 (25-17, 25-12)
Frosh final: Ozark – 2, Kickapoo – 0 (25-23, 25-15)