Katie Robinson knew Tuesday was a big night for her Ozark High School volleyball team. But she didn’t know how big her role would be in front of the large crowd and raucous student sections.
Coming off the bench for an injured Caroline Clifford, Robinson’s five kills in the final set helped Ozark to a critical 25-13, 19-25, 25-17 home victory over district rival Kickapoo.
“I had no idea, it happened in a blink of an eye,” Robinson said. “It was good I didn’t have time to think about it.”
Ozark coach Becky Justis said she never doubts anyone on her bench and never hesitated to send in Robinson, a junior middle hitter, to the outside hitter spot. Clifford, who injured a knee and will be evaluated today, led Ozark with 10 kills despite leaving early in the third.
“I’ve said from Day One — and I told all of our parents and players this — our program is very stacked from top to bottom,” Justis said. “We’ve got kids on our JV that can play on our varsity and can start for other varsity teams. I wouldn’t hesitate to put any of our kids in.”
The Lady Tigers (6-2) jumped all over Kickapoo (6-3) in the opening set as the Lady Chiefs made several unforced errors.
But in the second set, Kickapoo’s dynamic combo of Emily Thater and Maris Below — the former committed to Missouri and the latter to Miami (Ohio) — took over and rallied the Lady Chiefs. The two led a 10-3 spurt for a big lead and forced a decisive set.
“This team has been a slow-starting team at times during the season so far and against a good team like Ozark, you have a slow start and you’re in a deep hole before you know what hit you,” Kickapoo coach Debbie Downs said. “These kids are tough. I think it’s about increasing the time we stay focused.”
Leading 15-11 in the third, Robinson’s kill sparked Ozark on its decisive 10-6 run and gave the Lady Tigers a leg up on district seeding.
Brianna Justis led the Lady Tigers with 18 assists. Below had 12 kills to pace Kickapoo.
“We’ve struggled beating Ozark over the last couple of years,” Downs said. “They are as much a cross-town rival for us as Glendale is. This one burns.”