WAYNESVILLE — The third set of Ozark’s Class 5 District 6 final against Kickapoo on Tuesday included a pair of exceptionally long rallies with repeated high-quality shots and spectacular returns.
“That's what you play volleyball for, those high-intensity points,” Lady Tigers defensive specialist Jenna LaBarge said. “Those were so much fun, they were crazy. Winning those gave us a lot of momentum.”
For most of the night, though, Kickapoo netted quick points off of powerful winners from its attackers, while handing Ozark a 25-15, 25-19, 22-25, 25-19 defeat.
The Lady Chiefs’ 6-2 offense gave the Lady Tigers’ defense fits everywhere on the court.
“Kickapoo played very well. They ran a fast-tempo offense and were in system all night long,” Ozark coach Adeanna Brewer said. “It got us on our heels. We had trouble defending it at the net and in the back court. Kudos to them for executing their game plan.
“I thought we could put a little more pressure at the net with our block and funnel their attacks to our defense more,” she added. “Running a 6-2 offense, they have three attackers across the front line every single time and they made it very difficult for us. The digs that we did get, it made it difficult (to pass) because their attacks were so aggressive.”
Kickapoo outside hitter and Arizona State commit Bella Faria played on another level. Her attacks were with ferocity and well placed.
“She's a great player all around,” Ozark outside hitter Reagan Baade said.
The Lady Tigers found themselves out of system offensively more often than not.
“We had breakdowns in executing our offense,” Brewer said. “They put a lot of pressure on us with their serve. We had a breakdown in serve-receive at times. We weren't able to run all our attacking options all the time. You win a lot of games with serve and pass and they were better at that tonight.”
“They had good serves and our serve-receive was out of system,” LaBarge said.
The Lady Tigers (30-5) felt their attack should have had more of an emphasis at going after Kickapoo’s setter.
“We could have placed the ball more effectively by taking the setter out or serving more aggressively,” outside hitter Ashya Thompson said. “But we struggled a little bit.”
“Attacking at their right-back was something we struggled with,” LaBarge said. “If we could have done that, we probably could have got them out of system more.”
The Lady Tigers took solace in not being swept. Kickapoo won in three sets in the teams’ regular-season meeting.
“Getting that third set was meaningful to us,” LaBarge said.
The title tilt was preceded by Monday’s semifinal matches in which Ozark beat Nixa in four sets and Kickapoo downed Republic in four sets.
“It would have been nice to have one day (of rest) to recoup,” Baade said. “But that's part of the challenge of (the District).”
“It was really hard, more for our hitters,” LaBarge said of playing on back-to-back nights. “That’s a lot of jumping reps. It was about who was going to go off their momentum (from Monday) for energy tonight.”
The Ozark Conference member schools in the District made sure players wouldn't be able to feed off of energy from fans by inexplicably voting to have isolated Waynesville serve as the District host. The final was played in front of a sparse crowd made up mostly of the players' parents. The stale atmosphere was that of a jamboree.
Kickapoo (33-4) advances to the Quarterfinal round to play at Blue Springs South (20-8).
“I believe in them. They do good things,” LaBarge said. “They can show for our District and area. I hope they go far.”