The Ozark Lady Tigers took home the “Highway 14 Rivalry” victory Tuesday night with a dominating performance over the Nixa Lady Eagles.
It had all the makings of what a rivalry should be: loud student sections, chants, rallies and two emotional teams. But Ozark proved to be too much for the Lady Eagles, winning the game in two sets 25-15 and 25-12.
“It’s always been a dog-eat-dog battle – regardless of the skill level of our teams – both teams seem to bring their best,” said Ozark coach Becky Justis. “We just, I think, got out of the gate on them tonight. We’ve been really trying to focus on not letting up, not losing our intensity. So we just kept reminding them tonight of that Highway 14 battle.”
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Ozark came out hot in the first set, going up 7-0 on short serves, hard hits and errors on the part of an inexperienced Nixa team. The Lady Tigers increased their lead to 19-7 before Nixa began a rally to close the lead to 20-13.
But Ozark, with help from senior Bridget Justis who tallied 16 digs for the game, didn’t let the rally faze them and ultimately regained control, winning the first set 25-15.
Ozark came out early with a 6-1 lead, capitalizing on more Nixa errors. The lead got to 16-3 until Nixa found one more rally to pull within 7, but the Lady Eagles had trouble capitalizing – having serving errors and being unable to control passes. They ended up dropping the second set – and the game – 25-12.
Nixa coach Greg Walker acknowledged his team’s errors made it difficult for them to make it a more competitive game.
“We didn’t take care of the ball – that’s all it is,” Walker said. “We let our errors build their momentum."
Walker’s team lost five seniors last year and come in young – with five freshmen on the varsity team. But that doesn’t mean his team isn’t capable.
“They’re not scared; there’s not a scared look in their eyes,” he said. “It’s there. When we get up on our toes and not play flat-footed, we can play with the best of them. We’ve done it this year already.”
Nixa (12-6-1, 1-2 in conference) will have another tough game when they go to Republic for another conference game Thursday.
Ozark improved to 14-6 on the year and 3-0 in conference and will look to keep their conference undefeated streak alive as they travel to Neosho Thursday.
The Lady Tigers are without one of their starters, sophomore Caroline Clifford, who tore her ACL Sept. 18.
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Ozark 25 – 25
Nixa 15 – 12
Ozark leaders – Paige Perry (6 kills), Ivy Reynolds (6 kills), Brianna Justis (16 assists), Bridget Justis (16 digs), Jackie Fugate (3 blocks)
Nixa leaders – Hannah Bracker (5 kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks), Audrey Engelman (11 digs), Chloe Lofton (6 assists)