Clutch shooting by Shannon Murphy and Ashley McCulloch continued on Tuesday, as Ozark pulled out a 2-1 overtime win over Nixa in a Class 4 District 9 semifinal at Branson.
Midway through the extra period, Murphy delivered the game-winning goal while deflecting the ball off a Lady Eagle.
Just like that, the Lady Tigers avenged a 3-0 regular-season defeat and knocked off the COC champions.
“It’s an upset,” Ozark coach Chris Shull said. “Nixa is good, has outstanding players and coaches and they have had our number for a few years. But we played with no fear.
“We told our players we have just as much right to win this thing as they did,” he added. “It came down to heart and hard work. The girls played for each other.”
For Murphy, it was her second game-winning goal on consecutive Tuesdays. She had a wining corner kick in double-overtime at Republic last week.
Whether Murphy’s score to beat Ozark should be classified as an own goal or her goal didn’t really mater. The Lady Tigers eared themselves a berth in the District championship game against Kickapoo on Thursday.
Believing in each other triggered Ozark’s victory.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to win because of our first game with Nixa,” McCulloch sad. “So, we kind of had the attitude, ‘No one expects us to win, let’s show them who we really are.’”
The Lady Tigers went up 1-0 on a goal by McCulloch. Quiet for much of the season, she also scored at Republic.
“The past few games have been a confidence-builder for me,” McCulloch said. “I knew I was able to do it. It was just about executing. My confidence has grown game by game and now I know my role on the team is important. The team is counting on me, just like I’m counting on them.”
“Ashley sneaks in there and is a good finisher,” Shull said.
Meanwhile, Ozark goalkeeper Laney Burks responded to her first taste of the post-season about as well as could be expected. The freshman phenom shined while overcoming nerves.
“I was so nervous and still am,” Burks said. “The butterflies are still here. It was crazy tonight, insane.”
Burks responded to the pressure by turning away repeated Nixa shots on goal.
“Literally, nothing was going though my head,” Burks said of her stops. “It was all instinct.”
“She had a heck of a game,” Shull said.
After McCulloch put Ozark up 1-0, Nixa tied things up on a goal by Lexie Rasmussen. But that was it offensively for the Lady Eagles.
“We didn’t finish our chances,” coach Evan Palmer said. “We left a lot out there. It was either we would miss a shot or Ozark would make a great save or get good block.”
Palmer felt Nixa could have had more shots on goal with better passing.
“We weren’t on as we should have been in tight areas where we could have settled the ball better and found the runners,” he said. “It wasn’t for a lack of trying. The girls gave great effort. And there’s no shame in losing to Ozark.”
Ozark will be seeking a breakthrough District title against Kickapoo at 5 p.m. Thursday at Branson. The Lady Tigers (15-7-2) fell 4-2 to the Lady Chiefs (17-5-1) in early April.
“No one will expect us to win again,” McCulloch said. “But we’ll have momentum going into the game and have a chip on our shoulders again.”