Kennedee Anderson was her usual sharp, swift-setting self for Ozark in its march to a 10th straight District championship on Wednesday.
The senior setter had a customary night in the Lady Tigers’ 25-19, 25-20 win over Nixa in the final, dishing out 30 assists. However, it was anything but an ordinary outing for her.
Anderson hadn’t been on the floor with her teammates in more than a week, since suffering an interior dislocated left shoulder two sets into the Ozark Grand Slam Oct. 13. She hadn’t practiced in hopes rest and rehab would allow her shoulder to be strong enough to return for Districts.
“I worked a lot with my athletic trainer and she said, ‘We’re going to have you ready for Districts, but you’re probably not going to be able to practice,’” Anderson said. “She prepared me for that mentally.”
Anderson’s mental challenge included knowing any contact to her still-healing shoulder could cause it to be dislocated again.
“Go big or go home,” she said of her desire to play. “I knew there was the chance of it coming out of socket again. I thought, ‘Look, you’re going to play your hardest and if you have another injury, then you have another injury. You just have to play as hard as you can.’ I can’t play easy or try to protect myself because that would hinder my play.”
Anderson related she felt no pain in her shoulder Wednesday. Fortunately, she didn’t have to dive for an errant pass or an opposing serve or kill attempt.
“If I hit the ground wrong, it hurts,” she said. “Otherwise, I’m 100 percent.”
Anderson was optimistic she could pick up right where she left off with Ozark’s hitters. Like Anderson, Julia McCown and Katie Vorhies are seniors.
“We’ve been working a long time together,” Anderson said. “We stay pretty connected. We don’t disconnect very often."
Anderson made the most of her idle time while watching the Lady Tigers play and practice.
“Stepping back and watching things unfold during games and practices, you realize what you can do to make your team better,” she said. “I watched practices, watched them play games and went in applied everything I could. I wanted to run a fast offense and connect every ball to our hitters.”
Anderson went to junior outside hitter Ceci Westfall for two critical kills late in the second set against Nixa.
“Ceci has a great line shot,” Anderson said. “It really helps when we can run two people up front and have her back for an outlet. It’s virtually always a one-on-one and she can put it down.”
Coach Adeanna Brewer said Anderson was a much-welcomed addition.
“She committed to rehabbing her shoulder and spent countless hours in the training room to get ready for tonight,” Brewer said. “That’s a painful injury and she knows it could happen again. I was happy with her ability to step in and be confident.
“We’re good because Kennedee runs a fast offense. She’s confident in her ability. She makes the flow and rhythm on our side of the court work.”