Reagan Baade helped put a new spin on the Ozark-Nixa rivalry, thanks to the spin she put on the ball during her back row attacks.
Baade’s 15th and final kill Tuesday fooled practically everyone but her, as the ball appeared well on its way to going out of bounds, before dramatically slowing and dropping in front of the back out-of-bounds line.
It was among a slew of Lady Tigers highlights in their 25-22, 25-14, 25-19 sweep of the Lady Eagles.
The 5-foot-8 Baade was looking up by as much as seven inches to Nixa’s towering outside hitters and middle blockers. But she still loomed ever so large as the best player on the floor.
“With all the years of maturing and learning the game, you know it's not always about hitting the ball as hard as you can,” Baade said. “Sometimes, you've got to put some some spin on it or cut corners.”
Baade watched with pride as Nixa’s back row didn’t make an attempt to go after her aforementioned kill, thinking the ball had too much speed to stay in.
“It felt really good off of my hand. I knew it was going to be on the court,” Baade said. “You've got to snap your wrist and (the ball) will land on the court.”
“Reagan played exceptionally well,” Ozark coach Adeana Brewer said. “She had a game plan and we had a game plan and she executed it to a T. She’s only 5-8, but can use her jumping ability and different weapons with her wrists or arm swing (against) high hands on blockers to find kills.
“Anytime the ball is deceiving and you can get it to drop in, whether it's on your serve or attack, we call that a sinking ball,” Brewer added. “When we can get it to drop in front of a defender or a serve-receive passer, it is a weapon.”
A good portion of Baade’s kills were from the back row.
“My first back-row attack, I feel, set the tone. That one felt real good,” she said. “I've dialed in with my work in back-row attacks. If we're out of system, it's detrimental to have a back-row option. So, back-row attacking is very high (priority) for me.”
As a six-rotation senior star who has committed to Missouri State, Baade’s veteran presence supplied her teammates winning intangibles.
“She's a go-getter and such a competitor,” Brewer said, “When Reagan is on her game, everybody else feeds off of her energy. She was on her game for all three sets tonight.”
With MSHSAA adopting a best-of-five format in 2020, this marks the first three-set sweep ever for Ozark against Nixa in the teams’ storied series.
The Lady Eagles won seven of their previous eight matches over the past four years. The Lady Tigers’ lone win in that span was a two-set sweep during the Springfield Invite last year.
For Baade and her senior classmates, it wasn’t quite their first win against Nixa, but with this being a COC match, it felt like it to them. Upon completing their sweep, Ozark players were unabashed with their feelings of joy, with some of them dropping to their knees in celebration and a bit of relief.
“This is amazing,” Baade said. “We have worked so hard, not only physically but mentally. The emotions come out when you have worked so hard for something.
“Each year has built up to my senior yaar,” she added. “I was not going to go out without beating Nixa one year.”
“The seniors had a goal of achieving this,” Brewer said. “They were really fueled to get this win.”
Ozark’s sweep was a complete turnaround from Nixa’s domination of the Lady Tigers on jamboree night in August.
“This was a whole new game,” Ozark libero Macy Humble said. “You can't go in with the mindset, 'Oh, they beat us (at the jamboree), we might lose.’ You’ve got to have a whole new mindset and come out play like you know how you can play. “
Ozark (15-2 overall and 4-0 in the COC) received 14 digs from Humble, 45 assists from setter Reece Cook and 10 kills from outside attacker Tara Venable.
Venable returned the Lady Tigers after sitting out a week due to a concussion she suffered at the Effingham (Illinois) Classic.
Right-side hitter Emery Sutherland injured an ankle at Effingham that has forced her courtside.
“We've been searching for someone to fill that right-side spot,” Brewer said. “Aubrey Browning did a good job filling that spot tonight
“Our floor defense played really well,” she added. “Our serving was aggressive. They weren't in system as much as they normally are.”
Nixa (17-3 and 3-1) received eight kills from middle blocker Ava Owens, who is also an MSU commit, and 22 assists from setter Jacy Bray.