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Freshman Venable, sophomore Hilton look to give Ozark's offense a boost


Skylar Hilton’s intro to varsity ball came opposite eventual COC champion Nixa, of all teams, last season. Even as a freshman, she proved she belonged.

Looking back, she feels her spontaneous call-up to Ozark’s varsity by coach Adeana Brewer was the best route for her.

“I had just got finished playing jayvee and thought I was done (for the night),” Hilton said. “But (Ozark coaches) asked me to change into a varsity uniform. I thought I would just be sitting on the bench. But they threw me in. I didn't expect it to happen, but it was good.

“Playing against Nixa and Jaycee Fixsen, you hear all about them,” she added. “It was scary, but fun. I’m glad I didn't know because I probably would have psyched myself out if I had known before. It was a great first game for me. I was more excited than nervous.”

“When you pull younger players up, you either spark the person whose position they are taking or you start to give that younger kid opportunities because you can because you can see contributing in the future,” Brewer said. “That was a lot of how I felt about Skylar. I knew she was going to need to take on a role on as a sophomore from the get-go. Getting her experience last year was part of the plan.

“That opened her eyes of what her opportunities are going to be throughout her high school career,” Brewer added. “If we're in-system, she will become one of our main offensive players this season.”

Terra Venable will start her freshman season as an immediate-impact type. She, too, will be a big part of Ozark’s attack at the net.

“Terra brings height to the front row, which we desperately needed,” Brewer said. “She hits the ball hard at a pretty high contact point. She's a terminator on the outside.”

Venable already has drawn the attention of college coaches.

“She'll have to adjust to the speed of volleyball at the varsity level,” Brewer said. “She has a lot of people looking at her, as far as colleges. I'm super excited to have her in our lineup and look forward to seeing where her career takes her.”

During her formative years, Venable has taken private lessons from the likes of former Olympian Lori Endicott.

“She has taught me to have confidence when I'm playing and have a fast arm swing,” Venable said.

Brewer rates Venable’s arm swing as exceptionally fast.

“She's worked really hard to develop that,” Brewer said. “She also jumps well. If you have a fast arm swing and you're jumping high, those are two positives in an outside attacker.”

“Lots of reps have helped my arm swing be faster and harder,” Venable said.

Hilton’s influence growing up has been her mother, Brittany (Caldwell), a former standout at Galena.

“My Mom was a middle, too,” Hilton said. “I'm looking to step up and have successful seasons like she did.”