By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Visiting Ozark got off to a hot start and played senior night spoiler on Thursday night in Webb City.
The Tigers, 8-5-2, won by 12 points in the first set and fought their way to a 3-1 victory in Central Ozark Conference volleyball action.
“Every team plays with a lot of emotion and intensity on senior night because they’re celebrating their seniors so we figured that Webb City would be really good from the beginning,” Ozark coach Adeana Brewer said. “I think it was very crucial for us to win set one.”
Ozark scored five-straight points early in set one to open up a 12-4 lead and later went on a 7-0 run to make it 21-9. The Tigers won 25-13.
After the shaky start, the Cardinals (9-2-1) settled down in set two. They opened up a 5-2 lead and led 11-7 after a tip by senior Anna Hettinger. A kill by senior Maddy Peeples made it 16-8 later in the set, but Ozark came roaring back to tie things up at 18 on a kill by senior Hanna Vorhies.
The Cardinals never trailed, though, and finished off the set 25-22 with a big swing by Peeples from the left side.
“I think we may have gotten a little comfortable with that first set win and then we kind of coasted a little bit in set two,” Brewer said. “We dug ourselves a hole, started to recover but it was just too late. In rally scoring volleyball you just can’t wait that long.”
It would be Webb City’s only chance to celebrate, however.
The Tigers took a 6-1 lead in the third set and led 12-6 following a kill by Vorhies. Their lead grew to seven before Webb City stirred and rallied to take a 16-15 lead on a Peeples kill. It was back and forth for several points as the Cardinals led twice more, but a kill by Ozark senior McKenna Rhodes broke a 20-all tie and a shot by senior Hannah Tadlock finished off the Cardinals 25-22.
Ozark again seized an early lead in the fourth set but the Cardinals stayed close. It was tied at 11 before a short Ozark spurt that featured a kill by senior Savannah Eisman and an ace by Rhodes made it 15-11. Points from Vorhies and senior Ella Scott made it 18-12, but again Webb City rallied to pull within 20-18. The Cardinals wouldn’t score again, though, and Ozark clinched the night with a 25-18 win on a kill by Rhodes.
“I felt like set three and four were just really competitive back and forth,” Brewer said. “I feel like both teams were playing their best and digging balls they may not usually get to because they were max effort. Luckily we were able to capitalize on a few things a little better.”
“I think it was young mistakes,” Webb City coach Rhonda Lawrence said. “They were questioning stuff they normally don’t. Once we got (the first set) under our belt and kind of settled down then we started playing like we could. That’s why we won the second set. Played them hard in the third and fourth, still just a few too many errors.”
Leaders for Ozark were junior Ellie Schrader with 27 assists, senior Kinsey McAllister with eight digs, junior Madison Reed with six digs, Vorhies with 10 kills, Tadlock with eight kills, junior Madison Satterly with three aces and Tadlock with three blocks.
Rhodes turned in a double-double effort; she recorded 15 kills and 11 digs to go along with three aces.
“I would say definitely McKenna always brings energy for our team,” Brewer said. “She’s a workhorse and someone who works hard, that’s contagious. I feel like tonight was a collective effort. We have a lot of good kids. We talk about winning as a unit so I feel like tonight was a collective win as a unit.”
Webb City leaders were sophomore Kyah Sanborn and senior Sage Crane with two aces each, Peeples with 16 kills, sophomore Brenda Lawrence with 12 kills, junior Avery Westhoven with 16 assists, Hettinger with 11 assists, Crane with 21 digs and Sanborn with 13 digs.
“I think Maddy Peeples carries us a lot,” Lawrence said. “She did a lot of the workhorse stuff tonight as always but she brings a little calm to us and gives us a little more confidence in ourselves. They have a lot of trust in her. Sage and Abby (Stork) on the back row working tag team together. Sage really stepped up and passed some nails and got us out of those holes and made some big digs. Anna Hettinger just came back literally Monday, had her appendix removed and was out for two weeks completely. She’s only been into practice a couple days.”