Springfield, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- With the home crowd behind them and momentum building from their win over rival Glendale on Thursday, the Kickapoo Lady Chiefs (17-8, 8-0) volleyball team was ready to take on the visiting Waynesville Lady Tigers. After two sets, Kickapoo had won the match 25-16 and 25-14.
Any team having to come to Kickapoo to face the Lady Chiefs’ three Division 1 athletes and one of the strongest supporting casts in southwest Missouri is at a disadvantage. Waynesville battled Kickapoo tough early in sets, but could never overtake the Lady Chiefs on the scoreboard.
In the first set, Kickapoo jumped out to an early lead. Eventually stretching their lead to as much as eight during the middle of the set, the Lady Chiefs proved why they are the top team in their conference.
“We started out serving tough and got some big blocks early,” Kickapoo head volleyball coach Debbie Downs said.
The front line players for Kickapoo, senior Emily Thater, senior Maris Below, junior Kim Thomas, junior Rae Meyers, and freshman Rachel Rippee, have got most of the recognition throughout the season. However, consistent play from back line players was the difference for the Lady Chiefs tonight. Lea by junior Brianne Dixon, who recently committed to play volleyball at Missouri State University, and others like senior Lauren McCann, will be the players that will ultimately be the key to how deep of a run the team makes in the playoffs.
“Emily (Thater) can’t be on the front row all six rotations and neither can Maris (Below), so having those other quality players is very important,” Downs said.
Tuesday night, those back line players were the reason why Kickapoo was always able to make long point runs and hold onto the victory. Especially since Kickapoo was without Below, a Miami (OH) recruit, due to injury, the back line’s play was that much more vital.
Though Waynesville was showing bright spots in the match, they could only compete for a certain amount a time with Kickapoo before the Lady Chiefs pulled away in the sets.
In the second set, Kickapoo got off to a quick start. The team went up 8-1, seven of which came consecutively behind the superb serving of junior Maddie Marshall. The Lady Chiefs kept that early success rolling throughout the set, leading by as much as 14 at one point.
“Getting an early lead is one of the best things in volleyball,” Downs said. “Not having to dig yourself out of an early whole is huge. Even to get behind in the first five points is a battle.”
Up 24-10, Kickapoo looked as if they had the set wrapped up. However, the Lady Tigers did not give up on the set. They reeled off four straight points to give Kickapoo a small scare. Once again though, the Lady Chiefs used their tall front line to their advantage and finished the set to capture their 17th win of the season.
“We played some tough teams back in September and we hit some low points but we have come back from those losses,” Downs said. “This team has shown tremendous composure since mid September.”
In their final regular season game, Kickapoo will host West Plain on Thursday, October 18th. Meanwhile, Waynesville will have another tough test as the Lady Tigers play Joplin at home on October 18th.