To advance to today’s Class 4 final, the Ozark High School volleyball team had to think the unthinkable and beat the unbeatable in the third session of day one at state.
And for a while, it looked like it might.
Just like earlier in the season, Ozark hung with top-ranked and unbeaten Lafayette, leading throughout most of the first set against a team that had not dropped a set all season.
Meanwhile, across the gym at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Francis Howell was leading Lee’s Summit West in the spoiler upset the Tigers needed.
But, things unraveled quickly as the Lancers asserted themselves, and Lee’s Summit West regained control, and those teams will meet in today’s final. Both the final and the third-place games are repeat matchups from last season.
The young and hobbled Ozark Lady Tigers will play a rematch against Francis Howell in today’s 1:30 p.m. third-place match. Ozark won Friday’s meeting 25-22, 25-15, but lost a pair to Lee’s Summit West and Lafayette.
Ozark (28-9) played well at times, but couldn’t maintain it.
“That was our problem was consistency, and that’s not normally a factor with our team,” Ozark coach Becky Justis said. “But when you come and play the best of the best, with the young pups that we’re playing, and the adversity that we’re playing with, it’s going to show up unfortunately.”
Ozark battled without regulars Paige Perry and Caroline Clifford, who were injured, and were edged by Lee’s Summit West in Friday’s opener.
“We started off kind of slow,” said junior Ivy Reynolds, who led the Tigers with 17 kills on the day. “We all wanted it, but it was just a matter of coming together.”
Ozark recovered against Francis Howell, dominating down the stretch.
“That was good for us,” said senior Bridget Justis, who had 50 digs on Friday. “We played like we should, and how we are. We played Ozark volleyball against them.”
The Tigers were then faced with trying to upset Lafayette, and led most of the first set until Lafayette scored 10 of 11 points to take a 21-15 lead.
“They are just phenomenal,” Becky Justis said. “Give them credit. They’re big, they just don’t miss a beat, and they’re very smooth.”
Sasha Robinson and Jackie Fugate had 10 kills on the day, and Kendra Sater had 26 assists for Ozark.
Ozark is going for its third straight third-place finish, and is attempting to win its final game for the fourth year in a row, a run that started with the 2009 state championship.
“We just have to come out like it is the championship,” Reynolds said. “And if we can do that, it’s going to show a lot of people, even getting third.”
Added Bridget Justis: “We want to go out on a win. Us seniors, that’s all we’ve ever done.”