By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Perhaps no moment summed up Nixa’s day better than when senior Jordan Collard seemingly defied what was possible on a single rally.
Nixa coach Annie Zimmerman recalled the sequence of events as she watched from the sidelines.
“I think (Collard) hit the ball, dug the ball, blocked the ball, hit the ball again and actually scored the point – all within seconds,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a testament to her athleticism. She had a phenomenal day.”
So did the rest of the Lady Eagles.
After losing a three-set match at Willard in the regular season, Nixa got payback in Saturday’s Class 4 state volleyball quarterfinals.
The Lady Eagles controlled the match from start to finish in a lopsided 25-17, 25-11 victory over their conference rivals.
“We didn’t expect it to be like that. Every time we play them, they always come out super strong with a lot of fire,” Collard said. “That’s what we were expecting from them again, but I think we just came out with more and were more consistent.”
The victory sends Nixa to the final four for just the third time in program history, and first time since 1999.
“I couldn’t have asked more from my players today,” Zimmerman said. “They did everything we asked them to do. I felt like there was no weakness at any time on the court.”
“I can’t tell you how proud I am, how happy I am for them. They’ve earned this.”
Collard had a monster match against Willard, finishing with team-highs in kills (11) and blocks (five). Birthday girl Kenzie Hines added seven kills for Nixa (34-4 overall).
The Lady Eagles will compete in the Class 4 state volleyball championships at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau next weekend.
Nixa will face Lafayette, Liberty and Francis Howell Central in pool play starting at 3 p.m. on Nov. 8.
The top two teams from pool play will advance to the Class 4 championship match at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 9, with the 3rd place match scheduled for 3 p.m.
“We’ve been working for this all year and it’s amazing because we knew we could do it,” Collard said. “It took us all working together, and we were finally able to do it. It’s so overwhelming right now.”
Nixa, which dispatched Webb City 2-0 in the sectional round earlier in the day, led comfortably in both sets against Willard.
Willard got within 22-16 late in the first set, but could get no closer. Nixa quickly erased any hopes of a Willard rally in the second set by jumping out to a 13-5 lead.
Sydney Golden finished with 23 assists for Nixa. Lexie Gregory (12) and Alexis Adams (9) combined for 21 digs. Lauren Weber added three blocks.
“We knew we’d have to be the most disciplined defensively that we’ve ever been,” Zimmerman said. “Our block was going to have to work the hardest they’ve ever worked, because Willard does have such exceptional hitters. I think we did that consistently throughout the match.
“Our blocks did a great job of being up and over the net, which made it easier for our back-row players to be in position and play the ball.
“We were able to stay under control in a lot of situations. All-around great effort.”
Collard and Hines, who led Nixa in kills, were also efficient. Both hit 55 percent or better against Willard.
“We’re balanced as a team and we all work together,” Collard said. “We distribute the ball well. Everyone has the opportunity to do great things. We’ve had good team chemistry for so long.”
Willard, which reached the state final four last season, finishes 32-5 overall. The Lady Tigers graduate three senior starters in Emily Terry, Ashley Lasher and Ashton Wildermuth.