By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Kickapoo finished the 2019 season with a record of 29-6. The Ozark Conference Champions reached the district final before falling to Nixa, the eventual Class 4 state champion.
Entering her eighth year at the helm, Volleychiefs head coach Marci Adams will seek to replace a talented senior class led by Under Armor All-America Honorable Mention and Class 4 all-state selection Tayte Kozlowski.
Kozlowski, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, led Kickapoo with 336 kills last season. She will continue her athletic career at Drury University.
“Tayte is a tremendous athlete who paid close attention to every detail of her game and competed hard each time she stepped on the court,” Adams said.
Josie Barrand, Caitlyn Bernard and Bailey Prude also depart the program as graduates.
Barrand is set to play at St. Louis College of Pharmacy this fall.
Despite significant graduation losses, Kickapoo won’t be forced into a rebuilding process this season.
Blessed with both experience and talent, the Volleychiefs will simply reload with a deep, senior class led by a trio of all-conference and all-district selections.
Outside hitter Lauren Forbes (109 kills, 102 digs, 25 aces) and setter Lauren Faria (731 assists, 151 digs, 28 aces) each received all-conference and all-district awards in 2019.
“Lauren [Forbes] is very athletic, skilled at volleyball and competitive,” Adams said. “That is a lethal combination and we are glad she is on our side of the floor. Lauren [Faria] will return as our primary setter and will lead the offense. She’s the most humble player and is insistent on creating successful situations for our hitters.”
Libero Kate Owens (295 digs, 28 aces) also returns to lead the Kickapoo attack after receiving all-conference honors last season.
“Kate sees the game so well and plays incredible floor defense,” Adams said. “She takes such pride in keeping the ball off the floor, and the way she sets the defensive tone is impressive.”
Melanie Cox (97 kills, 27 digs, 18 blocks), Lauren Link (14 kills), Katelyn Fisher (89 digs, 30 aces) and Saylor King (12 digs, 10 aces) round out the list of senior Volleychiefs.
“A huge strength heading into this season is our senior leadership,” Adams said. “We have several seniors with multiple years of varsity experience. They know the talent in the area and what it takes to come out and be competitive each time you step on the floor. Most importantly, our team success means more to them than individual success.”
In addition to its strong senior class, Kickapoo boasts a wealth of varsity newcomers eager to compete for playing time.
“Kickapoo has several juniors that we will look to make an impact on our season,” Adams said. “Kaylee Corbin saw lots of action in the middle last year and is improving daily. A couple other kids that could see time in the middle are Lauryn Farish and Caroline Field. Ali Dawson took some swings on the outside during an injury last year and has the ability to make creative shots.”
Kickapoo’s depth could well play a significant factor this season, as Missouri shifts to a best-of-five sets format and expands the number of classes from four to five.
“A huge difference-maker in district play is the change to best-of-five sets,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a full season to experiment with the format.”
Adams also believes the Volleychiefs’ potential for success this season starts with Faria.
“A team’s success often lies in the hands of the setter, no pun intended,” Adams said. “It is one of the most multi-faceted positions in all sports. This will be Lauren’s second year running the offense and she never stops working. She’s always thinking ahead, and is very gritty when the going gets tough. She knows how to use our players’ strengths and create confidence in younger attackers.”
With the talented and experienced Faria running the floor, Kickapoo should be able to exploit a deep roster of capable attackers at the net.
“A balanced offense, we feel, is always the key to putting pressure on opponents,” Adams said. “If you always have three or more options, and each attacker knows it’s their job to try and score points to the best of their ability, then the opponents have to stay disciplined. And our defense knows it’s their job to put us in the best position possible.”
While class and district assignments have yet to be posted, Adams believes her team will have to navigate through a difficult slate of area heavyweights including Nixa, Ozark and Branson — three of last season’s district opponents.
“Regardless of the format, year after year our district continues to be loaded with talent,” Adams said. “Last year our top four seeded teams had 20+ wins on their record. It is brutal, but something to also get excited about.”