With Nixa’s Norah Clark considering herself first and foremost a basketball player, she is admittedly trying to regain her timing on the volleyball court early in the season.
Clark didn’t have much time for volleyball over the summer, as she played AAU basketball with Shock Hoops, an 18-and-under team based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I really committed to AAU for basketball this year. I hadn't done that before,” Clark said. “Playing with Shock was a really good experience. They’re all a grade above me and D-I players. I don't think I've ever played on a team with so much talent. I played with girls who really know what they are doing.
“There was no time for me to play club volleyball,” she added. “So, I had to focus when I got in the gym with (the Lady Eagles) on how to hit and how to block again because it takes a little while to get back into it when you haven't done it in a while.”
Predictably, Clark is off to a somewhat slow start. She totaled 15 kills in Nixa’s first four matches. But the potential for more is there, as she showed a year ago.
As a sophomore, Clark blossomed in the second half of the season. During the Lady Eagles’ march to the Class 4 state championship match, she contributed a career-high nine kills at Districts against Kickapoo and again netted nine kills at State in the semifinal round versus St. Francis Borgia.
She finished the season with 85 kills.
“The second half of the season she really took off,” coach Annie Zimmerman said. “We had several players competing for that (right-side hitter) spot. Everyone was getting an opportunity and by mid-season we had figured out she won that role and earned the starting spot.
“The Ozark Tournament was a big turning point for her,” Zimmerman added. “She gained a lot of confidence in that tournament. We won some big games and she was a big piece to that. From there, she kept on going. She's got size and unbelievable athleticism. She's a presence at the net.”
“We were in pool play (at the Ozark Grand Slam) and weren't playing our best, so coach put me in to see if I could change anything that was going on,” Clark said. “I guess I lit a fire in some people and we started to play a lot better. She continued to work me in and by the end of the tournament I was in full-rotation and played at right side from there.”
Clark is part of an array of strong hitters Nixa features at the net. The Lady Eagles also feature Jaycee Fixsen, Jena Medearis, Allie Billmyer and Hillary Estes.
“When we've got a big pin-hitter like Jaycee on the outside and Norah on the other side of the net, it makes it tough for teams to key on one girls,” Zimmerman said. “They have to stay neutral to try to defend everyone. Having a good right-side who can terminate balls opens up a whole new set of possibilities for what we can do in our offense. We're going to try to be the most well-balanced offensive team we can possibly be.”
Clark has appreciated the chance to play alongside senior stars the likes of Fixsen and setter Sydney Golden.
“I watched them play when I was a freshman and remember thinking how good they were and how great it would be to get to meet them,” Clark said. “I’m glad to be able to play with them and build relationships with them.
“Coming in as a sophomore last year while everyone else were juniors and seniors and had been playing on varsity for a while, it was very intimidating,” she added. “Sydney and Jaycee were very supportive and worked with me outside of practice on my hitting and blocking. They've been very helpful. That's what started to build my confidence.”