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Ozark tumbles to third place in COC after 1-0 setback at hands of Republic


One of the most established athletes in the COC this school year, Ozark’s Kaylee Linnebur would have liked Tuesday for her elite vertical jump PR to be 25 inches, instead of of 24 1/2.

A Republic goal by Kaylee Cornelson with 1:10 remaining grazed off of Linnebur’s fingertips, as Ozark dropped a 1-0 decision in a match that likely determined the COC runner-up.

With her right arm stretched out, Linnebur leaped high to her right to try to swat Cornelson’s perfectly-placed shot. 

"I was trying to push it up and over the back of the goal,” Linnebur said. “I got my fingers on it.  I thought I had it. I thought I had it tipped up and over. But I turned around and it was in the back of the net. I think I was a little further off my line than I thought I was. She shot it so far out that I wasn't on my line.

“It was a great shot,” she added. “Kudos to the girl who made it.”

“That was a beautiful shot and hard for anybody to save,” Ozark coat Zack Owens said. “You can't do better than an upper 90 shot at the death.”

Republic (16-8 overall and 8-1 in the COC) won despite having no more than a few shots on goal.

Ozark (14-10 and 5-3) controlled the ball the majority of the night.

“I think we dominated the entire game,” Owens said. “But that's soccer. We're not finishing our chances. Our attack is a little lacking right now. That's something we're going to have to fix.”

Ozark, which has totaled just four goals over its last four matches, lost to Republic for the first time in three years. 

Republic has nearly made a clean sweep of Ozark across the board this school year. Ozark has lost to Republic in girls soccer and baseball this spring, girls basketball, boys basketball and boys wrestling in the winter and football, softball and girls tennis in the fall.

Ozark beat Republic in boys soccer, volleyball and girls wrestling and the schools split their two meetings in boys tennis.

Back to the pitch, Linnebur returned to ‘keeper Tuesday after playing the past two matches at forward and wing.  This has been her first go-around as a goalie.

“Getting out on the field has been nice because it's something I'm more familiar with. But I'm willing to play wherever is best for the team,” Linnebur said. “(Owens) presented the idea (of being a goalie) to me as soon as last season ended. So, I was aware of it for a while. Since we had been talking about it, mentally I was training for it. But I wasn’t able to (physically) train for it because of softball and then I went straight into basketball. I started ‘keeper training toward the end of basketball season.”

Linnebur has proven herself capable. Ozark is allowing 1.3 goals a night

“She was willing and we needed her,” Owens said of Linnebur’s move to goalie. “In my opinion, it was a no-brainer. We looked at her from an athletic standpoint and what characteristics she could bring in that role for us. (As a shortstop in softball), she’s used to tracking an even faster ball coming at her.

"Sometimes as a goalie all it takes is someone who is athletic and willing to put themselves behind the ball and not be afraid of it,” he added. “She’s calm and collected when a ball is in the air and she has good hands. She’s had to look at the situational aspect of it, when to come out and get off of (the) line or how to come out and get big to close out an angle.”

Linnebur’s shining moment thus far was making three penalty-kick saves in Ozark’s 3-2 win against a 15-win Grain Valley team at the Parkview Shootout in April.

Looking ahead to Districts and a first-round rematch at noon against Republic on Saturday, Ozark is looking for the same kind of play it showed against Grain Valley 

“That was the best game we've played,” Linnebur said. “That's the team I know we are and I know we can be. We have the arsenal and ability. We have to show up with all cylinders firing."

Owens is anxious to see how his players respond.

“We've got to bounce back,” he said. “We're lucky we have the chance to fix our wrongs against the exact same opponent a few days later. I like our chances on Saturday. I think now the girls are going to be even hungrier.”