Jaycee Fixsen will go through four post-season experiences before her career at Nixa is complete. When her fist go-around in Districts last season was a bit shaky and didn’t include a storybook finish, the outside hitter looked ahead with confidence.
“It was a little rough for me last year. It was nerve-wracking,” Fixsen said, recalling her initial experience of the post-season as one of only two freshmen to see the floor in last year’s Class 4 District 10 final. “I knew this year was going to be so much different. I worked hard for the school season and was able to come back stronger. I also knew we would work so hard and would finish the job.”
Nixa finished off both Ozark 25-22, 22-25 25-17 in a semifinal and Kickapoo 25-23, 25-21 in the title tilt Wednesday to earn the program’s first District championship in nine years. The Lady Eagles handed the Lady Tigers their first District loss since 2008.
Nixa (32-4) upped its winning streak to 17 entering Sectionals on Saturday at home against Webb City. The other Sectional at Nixa will match Willard versus Jefferson City. The winners will meet in the Quarters with a trip to State on the line.
Fixsen came up with as big a kill as any Wednesday. With Nixa and Kickapoo tied at 22-all in their first set, Fixsen delivered a kill and the Lady Eagles netted the final three points of the set.
It was part a team-high 11-kill effort for Fixsen.
“The first game against Ozark, I thought Jacee was a little shaky starting off,” Nixa coach Annie Zimmerman said. “But she made a couple good defensive plays and I thought that got her going. She made good decisions and tough plays. She hit some great balls and did a phenomenal job. For her to be just a sophomore and play at that maturity level in this type of environment, I love it. I’m so happy for her.”
“Jaycee brings a lot to our team,” libero Lexie Gregory said. “I’m so proud of her for stepping up because she’s definitely one of the players who makes a big difference in who we are."
Fixsen teamed with another sophomore, Sydney Golden. The second-year starting setter worked well with all of Nixa’s seemingness endless supply of hitters on her way to 27 assists.
“It’s all about how Sydney sets the ball,” Fixsen said. “She always has good sets.”
The Lady Eagles swept Kickapoo by recording eight of the final 11 points in the second set.
“This is so fulfilling,” Fixsen said. “Our seniors worked incredibly hard for this. They earned it. I’m so glad to be a part of their happiness.”
Fittingly, Lauren Weber ended the night’s four-plus hours of festive fireworks by drilling an ace that went untouched in the middle of Kickapoo’s defense.
“For it to end on that, I’m so happy for her,” Zimmeman said. “She’s one of our most aggressive and toughest servers. She works hard on it and takes pride in it. That was a good way to finish.”
Such an ending was also fitting because it shed light on the resilience Nixa displayed at the service line. The Lady Eagles were guilty of 14 service errors opposite Ozark.
They had just two such gaffes against Kickapoo.
“There was some time before the (championship match) and I said, ‘Guys, let’s work on some serving and serve-receives,’” Gregory said. “(Serving errors) are something we’re not used to. We figured, ‘It’s OK, we’ll have to figure it out and make up for those mistakes.’ We moved on from it.”
Nixa’s severs knew better than to let up on their serve.
“Against teams like Kickapoo and Ozark, you can’t just lob the serve over,” Gregory said. “It’s got to be aggressive and low to try to get them out of their system.”
“We try to serve aggressively and that’s going to cause some errors,” Zimmerman added. “We had to learn from those errors, figure out what we were doing wrong and serve better. If we can’t serve aggressively, teams can do whatever they want offensively, so we’re going to take a chance. Nerves at the beginning definitely had an impact. The girls let themselves get a little tight. But hey calmed down and served like they can.”
“We felt pressure,” Fixsen said. “But we were able to work through it.”
Nixa had to overcome the wave of momentum 10-time defending District champion Ozark gained by taking the teams’ second set. The Lady Eagles responded by controlling the third set.
“We talked before tonight that, ’It’s Districts, every team is going to go on runs and come at us. We have to control what we do and not get caught up in the chaos of the environment, stay calm and execute,’” Zimmerman said. “We had to withstand those runs. We did that very well. We made adjustments.
"We had a nice start (to the third set) and once the girls settled in, we were able to execute what we do on a daily basis," she added. "I told them, ‘You’ve got to make the game simple, keep the game simple and do what we do and we’ll be fine.’”
The Lady Eagles did indeed emerge fine and full of wide-eyed smiles. But Gregory couldn’t help but go through a bit of a scare and have genuine concern for Weber at the bottom of the team’s dog-pile following the final point of the night.
“That was crazy,”Gregory said. “I felt Lauren underneath me and then I saw everyone coming at us. I said, 'Oh no, please don’t hurt Lauren.’ We were screaming and I was about to cry. This is something we’ve waited for and worked for this entire season. It’s so nice to get to the place we want to be.”