College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats opened their 2019 season in an exhilarating way. With a great crowd on hand, C of O battled back from an 0-2 deficit to hand Evangel University their first loss of the season.
Set one found the two teams very evenly matched. While the Crusaders held the lead most of the game, the Lady Bobcats were never trailed by more than four points. Late in the set, Evangel led 24-21, but C of O tied up the set at 24 and proceeded to take a 25-24 lead before eventually falling 26-28.
Evangel came out strong in the second set to take a quick 10-3 lead. The Cats pulled to within six points at 13-19, but the Crusaders held tight and proceeded to close out the game with a 25-15 advantage.
The third set was a back-and-forth affair with numerous ties until the score reached 15 points apiece. C of O went on a six-point run, which included a pair of back-to-back service aces by junior Ryley Thixton (Ozark). Evangel pushed back to bring the score to within three points on two occasions, but the Lady Cats held on for a 25-23 victory.
Set four found the two teams knotted at 5-5 before C of O began to make a move. The Lady Cats took the lead at 6-5, and despite some pushback from Evangel late in the set, they retained their lead to eventually close out the set at 25-21.
In the deciding game, the Lady Cats opened with a 4-1 advantage and never looked back, as they closed out the set and match with a 15-9 victory.
The Lady Bobcats were led by Ryley Thixton (21 kills, 5 service aces), Rielly Dobbs Wallace (47 assists), Haley Stallings (27 digs), and Kaylan Smith (5 blocks). Thixton posted a double-double on the night, adding 15 digs to her 21 kills. Newcomer Abi Menzies posted double-digit kills (14) in her C of O debut. As a team, the Lady Bobcats tallied an impressive 11 service aces. Crusader stat leaders featured Daisy Ecklund (23 kills), Bridget Petersen (7 blocks), Jordan Stacey (31 assists), and Eryn Russell (20 digs).
Tuesday’s win opens the Lady Bobcat season with a 1-0 record, while Evangel moves to 6-1.
The Lady Bobcats will head on the road to Nebraska this weekend to play in a tournament hosted by Bellevue University. The Lady Cats are scheduled to play four matches, with their first match against College of St. Mary on Friday, August 30, at 9:00 a.m. in the Lied Activity Center.