It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but over the last four years for Ozark High School volleyball fans, it has become sweet music to their ears.
With a 25-18, 25-22 straight-set victory over Kickapoo in the Class 4 District 11 title game on Wednesday, Ozark now has won four consecutive district titles.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” Ozark senior Jackie Fugate said. “This is my fourth year doing it and it gets better every year. I expect us to win, but when we actually do, it shocks me.”
Top-seeded Ozark got to the title game with a dominating victory over fourth-seeded Central (25-9, 25-7) earlier Wednesday, while second-seeded Kickapoo had a tougher test to beat Glendale (25-19, 20-25, 25-14).
Early in the first set, the Tigers (25-6) traded points with Kickapoo (21-9), but eventually took an 11-6 lead after a kill from freshman Kendra Sater and two more from junior Ivy Reynolds.
“The game plan was to control the ball on our side and let them make the mistakes, and for us to come out really aggressive,” Reynolds said.
“Different people stepped up at different times tonight and got kills and dug the ball really well for us.”
After back-to-back blocks by Kickapoo’s Kimberly Thomas pulled the Chiefs to within four points (14-10), Ozark got kills from Katie Robinson and Sater, along with two more kills from Fugate on four straight points to make the score 18-10.
But the run for Ozark wasn’t over.
Two consecutive kills by Sater and a kill from Brianna Justis gave Ozark a commanding 22-11 lead.
“When we are on a roll, it’s because everyone is contributing,” Ozark coach Becky Justis said. “Jackie, Kendra and Ivy were all on a roll tonight.”
Maris Below, who led the Chiefs with 11 kills, had a block and three kills on four consecutive points to narrow the lead to 24-18, but it was too late to save the first set for Kickapoo.
In the second set, the score was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands five times as the intensity ramped up for both teams.
“We really wanted to mix tempo against their defense as much as possible, so they had to move and play balls,” Kickapoo coach Debbie Downs said.
“We’ve got some big power hitters and you can adjust to power hitters at some point, by sitting back and setting your platform and digging the ball.
“So we knew we would have to mix it up and put the ball in a lot of different places.”
Kickapoo could only stretch the lead to two points (11-9) after back-to-back kills by Rachel Rippee, but kills from Fugate and Sater of Ozark tied the score at 11.
Reynolds twice tied the score with kills at 13-all and 16-all before a kill from Fugate gave Ozark the lead for good (17-16).
“It was very important for Ivy to play well today,” Fugate said. “When I was on the front row, (Kickapoo senior Emily) Thater is on the front row blocking me, and when Ivy’s on the front row, there’s not a 6-foot-3 girl up there because Thater is on the back row.”
Sater led Ozark with nine kills.