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Ozark falls short of beating defending state champ Willard for second straight year

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Hanna Vorhies could look back on what loomed as the biggest play of the night in Ozark’s loss to Willard on Tuesday content with the power she had on her attack.

But she wished she would have went elsewhere with the ball.

A block of a Vorheis kill attempt by Willard’s Lael Brandon all but sealed Ozark’s 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 setback.

With the teams tied at 23-all in the fourth set, Vorhies soared well above the net and hit the ball cleanly and with exceptional ferocity. But across the net, Lael was up to the challenge, converting a block and kill on the play.   

“That was a really good block, right place at the right time,” Vorhies said. “I could have been more aware of my surroundings. I could have seen her and tipped it or something else.

“I guess I should have hit to the setter on the other side,” she added. “The shoots were going really well for us. I should have stuck with those.”

Lael’s block all but made the final point anti-climactic, as Willard easily closed the match.

“She had a very good block. It frustrated us,” Ozark hitter Reagan Baade said. ”It was energy-draining for the rest of us. We needed to come back from it, but didn’t.”

Vorhies was unstoppable most of the match, while locked in a duel with Willard’s Paige Durham. Durhan netted 26 kills and Vorheis had 21.

Taylor Samson added nine kills for Ozark.

As Vorhies noted, Ozark hitters targeted Willard 5-foot-6 setter Paige Gayer.

“We did a good job applying what we scouted on them,” Vorhies said. “We took advantage of their short setter playing in the front row. She doesn’t get up very high when she blocks. That left a good spot open for us.”

Willard (24-3), last year’s Class 4 state champion, obviously was looking to avenge a loss to Ozark a year ago. Willard’s players and fans celebrated afterward as if they had one another state title.

“We’re strong rivals with Willard, even more so than Nixa and Kickapoo,” Vorhies siad. “A couple years ago, when we lost to them in Sectionals, that broke our (eight-year) streak of going to State. That got engrained in us and we have this thing against Willard where we always want to beat them.”

“This is the definition of a rivalry, we both want to beat each other so badly,” Baade said. “It’s annoying for us to lose tonight because we can beat them.”

Ozark (16-8) hosts its own Ozark Grand Slam on Saturday.

“I’m excited for this weekend,” Vorhies said. “The Grand Slam has some of the best teams in Missouri. I hope we play Nixa. Getting another chance to face them would be good for us. We can do a lot better against them than the first time (a three-set loss). We need to have a better mindset against them.”

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