The second time around against Ozark, Shaelee Franck and her Nixa teammates were mindful not to make it a battle of strength and engage in another physical contest with the Lady Tigers.
The Lady Eagles utilized their speed in Tuesday’s Class 4 District 6 semifinal, repeatedly beating their counterparts to the ball in the open field and breaking away for a 4-0 victory.
With Ozark having a streak of six straight shutouts entering Tuesday, Nixa scored twice in the first half and twice more in the second half.
Franck, Jade Johnson, Alexa Gaunt and Brooke Teter all netted a goal.
“We had more fouls the first game (against Ozark), compared to this game,” said Franck, a freshman forward. “We realized we can’t foul as much. That’s how they got more possessions that game. We figured out our positioning and how to pass around them. This is one of the faster games we’ve played.. We usually don’t play this fast.”
“The thing with Ozark is they control the ball well and their girls are strong,” Nixa coach Evan Palmer said. “In the first half, we would lose the ball because they would use their strength and push us off the ball. I told our girls, ‘We have to move the ball quicker.’ We were able to do that in the second half and at times in the first half. They’ve got some speed. But I think overall we are faster than them.”
The Lady Eagles’ energy was exceptional, thanks to the pressure of the post-season and, of course, the revenge factor. Ozark had won its last three matchups with Nixa.
“We definitely outran them tonight and effort was a key part of it,” Teter said. “Losing the Christian County Cup was a big motivator. We lost it two years in a row. Tonight, we won when it mattered.
"We’ve improved a ton since the first time we played them," she added. "Coming off a big win against Rock Bridge (last week) boosted our confidence.”
“It’s been heartbreak for us,” Palmer said of the losses to Ozark. “It built up to where things came together tonight. The girls so wanted this game. They were ready and so focused. It was a beautiful thing.”
Palmer was pleased to see the Lady Eagles receive scoring outside of their leaders, Franck and Teter.
"Brooke and Shae have had a lot of goals this year. But mark them out of the game and we have other girls who can finish,” Palmer said. “Against Republic Saturday, we had three girls score who hadn’t scored all year and one girl got a hat trick who hadn’t scored all year.”
“They’ve started to mark us. They’re paying more attention to us and are following our runs more,” Teter said of opponents. “That’s opened things up for our other players. Our other girls have stepped up and shown they can score. That’s been a big factor for us.”
Goalkeeper Allyson Pendergraft posted the shutout, putting a capper on the night with a save on a point-blank shot on goal late in the match.
“Ally has done a fantastic job for us,” Palmer said. “She hasn’t played a lot of goalie. For her to step up this year has been great.”
Nixa will now try to avenge a regular-season loss to Kickapoo when the teams meet in the District final Thursday. The Lady Chiefs beat the Lady Eagles 2-1 in early April.
Kickapoo’s Ellie Davidson recorded her 45th goal on the season in the Lady Chiefs’ semifinal win Tuesday.
“She can finish,” Palmer said. “We’re got to make sure we are tough on her.”
“They’ve got some really good players, but we do, too,” Frank said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
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