By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The trappings of a state championship include a trophy, medals and rings. There’s also the big old bullseye that is painted on your back as you enter the next season. The Nixa Eagles are learning all about that bullseye right now.
Nixa, Missouri’s defending Class 4 volleyball champions, shook off a shaky start and a stiff challenge from Kickapoo Tuesday night to earn a 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17 win in non-conference play.
“Every single team we play, we’re going to get their best,” Nixa coach Annie Zimmerman said. “Regardless of what the score is, teams are going to keep coming at us. We can’t have any of those relaxation moments and think things are going to be easy. That’s what happened to us in the first set.”
Kickapoo stole the first set from the home team, rallying back from a 12-5 deficit early. KHS also trailed 20-13 and 22-16 before closing the set on a 9-1 run, punctuated by a kill from Lauren Forbes.
The second set was much of the same. Nixa raced ahead 13-8 and had a 20-15 edge before another Kickapoo rally. But that set had a very different ending. A kill from senior Carsen Glaser steadied the Eagles’ wobbly legs and points at the net from Allie Billmyer sealed the win.
“We fixed our block because their outsides were really killing us on the line shots,” Glaser said. “We got some really good blocks on the right side and that helped a lot. … The more we hustled, the more momentum and excitement we got. That helped us.”
It was all Nixa the rest of the night. Big leads in the third and fourth sets held up with much less drama as the Eagles improved to 3-1 on the season. Their lone loss came in the season opener at Fayetteville.
“I like the fact I’ve got multiple players that can play multiple positions,” Zimmerman said. “We have a couple of players that have their specific roles, but I have a lot of flexibility with everyone else. It’s early in the season and we’re trying to find what niche everyone is going to fit into, and honestly it could change game to game, so having that flexibility to make those adjustments is really fun as a coach.”
Kickapoo (5-2) struggled to match Nixa’s energy in the early stages of all four sets. KHS faced deficits of at least five points in what coach Marci Adams called a team effort.
“We were a little bit sloppy. We couldn’t click on any cylinders and couldn’t get anything rolling,” Kickapoo coach Marci Adams said. “We worked a little harder instead of smarter.”
Junior Jaycee Fixen had 21 kills to lead Nixa, including a stretch of four in a row in the third set, and added 25 digs. Taylor Golmen finished with 15 kills, while Glaser added six. Sydney Golden handed out 47 assists.
The Eagles visit Rogersville Sept. 17 and are scheduled to play in the Springfield Classic Sept. 19. Kickapoo is also in action Sept. 17 and 19, visiting Camdenton and joining Nixa in the Springfield Classic.
“Our effort is 100%. Our attitudes and team chemistry are great,” Adams said. “I’m really happy with the people that we are on the court and off the court. We’ve got a bunch of kids that play with their hearts, so I told them they get two more minutes to sulk about it, then we look to the next thing.”