By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Cabool Lady Bulldogs are district champions for the first time since 1985.
On Tuesday night, Cabool shut out the Licking Lady Wildcats, 3-0, to take the Class 2 District 8 title.
“We’ve been working for that for three years now,” said Cabool head coach Julia Reaves. “They’ve been working their tails off and finally pulled it out. I think they realized it is now or never. I’m super proud of them.”
For the past two seasons, Liberty eliminated the Lady Bulldogs in district play, but the Lady Eagles are no longer in the same district. Licking took third place in the Class 2 state tournament in 2019.
Cabool’s team includes eight seniors, many whom have played together since fifth grade.
“We went into practice yesterday and they said, ‘Coach, this isn’t our last practice,’ said Reaves. ‘We’re not done.’”
The Lady Bulldogs entered the contest as the heavy favorite with a 7-2 advantage out of 9 total sets played against Licking this season.
In the first game, Cabool jumped out to a quick five-point lead thanks in part to two kills from senior hitter Elizabeth Whetstine. Licking’s Abigail Sullins helped her team battle back with two kills of her own, 9-7. Cabool’s defense and strong play from Alexis Hunter and Hailey Shannon propelled them to a 25-19 win despite Kamryn Barnes’ five points for Licking.
Licking got the early lead in the second set, 6-1, but Cabool’s play at the net helped them work their way back into the contest until they tied, 10-10. From there, the Lady Bulldogs steadily moved to as much as a 10-point lead. An Olivia Scheets kill sealed the game for Cabool, 25-17.
Cabool again opened strong in the third, but Licking roared back to tie them 6-6, then thrice more before tying again at 23 all. Hailey Shannon claimed the final two points, 25-23.
“We’re really good at digging holes, but that is one thing we work on in practice,” said Coach Reaves. “I set a score and we dig out of it, so they’ve done it their whole high school career. They wanted it bad enough and they were going to prove it.”
Reaves said her players “all stepped up big.” Left-handed hitter Hailey Shannon was ready to play, and Gracie Campbell stepped into the role of libero for the first time this year and has found success. Josie Atkins’ high game IQ helped her team to victory.
Licking head coach Terri Moncrief knew this would be a tough match. “We tried to prepare as best as possible and put the best rotation in, but it didn’t quite fall into place for us,” she said.
Moncrief’s team will lose three seniors to graduation. “They are the greatest girls, and it has been such a privilege – this being my first year – to be able to coach them. I inherited a great team,” she said.
“The girls worked hard and did everything I asked of them,” she added. “There is a large chunk of teams already done for the season, so to even advance to the championship is huge because that’s one layer you advanced to that other teams didn’t. It’s a privilege to be able to do that.”
Licking closes their season with a 20-10-3 record.
The Lady Bulldogs are now 29-3-4 and will play the winner of District 6 in a sectional match-up on October 31 at Belle.