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Defending conference champ Lady Tigers transitioning well to Owens being their coach


In regard to first impressions, Ozark coach Zack Owens has been happy with how the Lady Tigers have responded to him in his first go-around with them.

“They are eager and hungry to be coached and start a new chapter,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got their buy-in. They work hard and are pretty talented.”

Owens adds another pleasant development in the early going has been how quickly the players have also adapted to each other. With underclassmen making their varsity debut, including freshmen starting, many of them are sharing time on the field with each other for the first time.

“The girls have a sense of camaraderie,” Owens said. “The atmosphere has always been positive. That can be tough sometimes with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all playing in varying roles — how are the girls going to mesh? They seem to really get along. Relationships are going to be big for us.”

The Lady Tigers feature veterans in defenders Audrey Carlton, Brooklyn Schulte, Kiara Holt, forward Chloe Kondracki and Addison Shuler and midfielders Josi Van Riessen, Natalie Morgan and Morgan Pickrens.

Carlton was an All-COC First-Team selection as a sophomore a year ago.

“We’ve got some very talented girls who play at a high level,” Owens said. “We have some girls in different spots than what they are accustomed to playing. They are filling needs and have been pretty successful in those spots.”

The Lady Tigers’ biggest question mark is at goalkeeper, where Kaylee Linnebur has taken over with no experience in front of the net prior to this season.

Owens values the physical tools and intangibles Linnebur brings.

“She started taking private goalkeeping lessons last year when I came to her about possibly filling this role,” Owens said. “She’s used to getting down and fielding gourd balls (as a shortstop in softball). She’s athletic and, as a senior, is mature. She’s got an athlete’s mentality. We love that about her. I think she’s going to be very successful.”

Ozark split its season-opening matches Saturday, bowing to Columbia Hickman 2-0 and beating Waynesville 3-0.