By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For the past decade, volleyball dominance in Southwest Missouri has had an Ozark zip code.
Following the 2019 season and Class 4 state championship, the Lady Tigers’ Highway 14 neighbor may be seeking to challenge that claim.
Ozark’s semi-final loss to Nixa marked the first time in ten years the Lady Tigers (19-14) failed to win a district championship.
For head coach Adeana Brewer, conceding isn’t part of the program.
“Our winning mindset does not change even after losing in districts,” Brewer said. “Our program’s goal is to be the best team in late October. We expect more of ourselves and will put in the work to continue to get better and better.”
A trio of graduated seniors depart the program in Class 4 all-state right side Ceci Westfall (212 kills, 53 blocks), defensive specialist/libero Meredith Avery (169 digs, 9 aces) and defensive specialist/libero Olivia Skipworth (235 digs, 32 aces).
All three will continue their respective athletic careers in college this fall. Westfall and Skipworth will play for Columbia College, while Avery will attend Evangel University.
While it’s never easy replacing graduates, Ozark’s incoming senior class is loaded with talent and experience.
Libero Kinsey Mcallister (149 digs, 16 aces), right side/setter Ella Scott (177 assists, 74 digs), middle front/right front Madison Satterly (22 kills, 12 blocks), outside hitter Mckenna Rhodes (100 kills, 21 blocks, 38 digs), outside hitter Savannah Eisman (22 kills, 10 blocks) and middle Hannah Tadlock (155 kills, 82 blocks) all return to the lineup with valuable varsity experience and leadership.
“We have a whole team of seniors this year that will contribute on the floor after seeing some action in various spots last year as juniors,” Brewer said. “I expect all six to be key factors in our success.”
A pair of juniors also return to the varsity lineup in 6-foot left side Hanna Vorhies (145 kills, 44 blocks, 32 digs) and setter Ellie Schrader (277 assists, 57 digs).
Ozark will also feature a host of junior newcomers eager to compete for varsity minutes, including 6-foot-2 middle attacker/blocker Gracie Hall, who Brewer expects to make a big impact with her size and floor presence.
Madison Reed, Ellie Van Dyke, Jordan Blackford, Kenna Humble, Taylor Samson and Kelly Sims will also fight for playing time and stock a deep and talented bench for the Lady Tigers.
With leadership, talent, experience and depth on the roster, Brewer has high hopes for her team’s potential as the season approaches.
“We have several new faces on the floor but I feel like we also have a lot of talent out there as well,” Brewer said. “Since we will be deep on the depth charts, I think that will push everyone every single day to get better.”
With a bevy of depth at her disposal, it’s no surprise Brewer is also intrigued by Missouri’s switch to a best-of-five sets format this season — a move which could favor deeper rotations as the season progresses.
“I am extremely interested in the state’s plan to move to five classes and play best-of-five sets,” Brewer said. “I think the program and the team that learns how to handle and execute playing four to five sets in one night the best will be the team that is successful in postseason play.”
With plenty of size at the net, Ozark’s attack will run through its talented duo of setters in Scott and Schrader.
“Ellie and Ella will most likely run a 6-2 offense and share the [setting] responsibility,” Brewer said. “I think that will allow our team to be offensively bigger at the net, and each setter brings something different to the table that opponents will have to defend.”
Ozark opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Glendale.