The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats are eager to take the court for the 2017 season as they seek to pick up right where they left off. The Lady Bobcats closed out a very successful 2016 season with a 29-16 record, capturing the A.I.I. Conference Championship title, and advancing to play four matches in the NAIA National Championship tournament.
Coach Muckenthaler enters her fourth season as the Lady Bobcats’ head coach and is excited to return nine players from last year’s squad. The 2017 lineup features two seniors--Danielle Curnes and Hannah Bracker. Curnes played in 147 sets last season where she accumulated 304 kills, 18 service aces, 595 digs, and 41 total blocks. Since transferring from Cowley County Community College in 2015, Danielle has proven herself as a versatile athlete who can play a significant role at virtually any position on the court. A nursing major, Danielle earned 2016 NAIA and NCCAA Scholar Athlete awards for her performance in the classroom. Bracker, who hails from Nixa High School (Mo.), enters her fourth year with the Lady Bobcats. Hannah had a strong 2016 season, tallying 272 of her 449 career kills alongside 74 of her 109 career blocks. The combination of her talent, dedication, and senior mentality is expected to lead to a very productive 2017 season.
Also taking the court following dynamic 2016 seasons are junior Alex Spears and freshmen Rielly Dobbs and Haley Stallings. Dobbs led the team with 874 assists in her first season as a Lady Bobcat, alongside 107 kills, 362 digs, and 33 service aces. Rielly received numerous accolades, which included being named 2016 NAIA Honorable Mention All-America and AVCA NAIA Honorable Mention All-America. Her work ethic has resulted in continued improvements to her game over the summer, and she is ready to take charge on the court. Stallings led the NAIA as the #1 ranked player in digs during her stellar freshman season with 1,110. She also provided her team with 101 assists and a team-leading 49 service aces. Haley was also well-recognized, as she was named 2016 NAIA Honorable Mention All-America, AVCA Honorable Mention All-America, and NCCAA 1st Team All-America. Spears, who made her 2016 debut as a Lady Bobcat, made a splash by leading the team in kills last season with 339, while also adding 26 service aces, and 499 digs. Her power and versatility are a boon to the team’s success.
Junior outside hitter Halle Huffman and sophomores Kaylee Larimer, Shay Helsel, Maggie Plake will also return to the courts stronger and more confident following last season’s success and their hard work in the off-season.
New additions to the team this year feature some incredible talent in the form of three freshmen and one transfer. Ryley Thixton (Ozark High School) was an All-District and Academic All-State athlete for the Tigers and will play outside hitter/defensive specialist; Daphne Dinsdale (Camdenton High School), a setter and outside hitter, earned All-Region, All-District, All-Conference, and Academic All-State honors with the Lakers; and the 6-foot middle hitter Kaylan Smith (Ozark High School ) received All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference, and All-Region in volleyball for the Tigers. Junior transfer Kayli Grant is a solid middle hitter who transferred from Iowa Western Community College. Grant lettered three years at Millard North High School (Neb.) and will bring additional power to the front line.
Coach Muckenthaler is excited about the possibilities for her Lady Bobcats this season. The influx of talented new players combined with the experience and accomplishments of her returners could result in an explosive season.
The Lady Bobcats look forward to providing excitement on the court and winning games for their fans, but that isn’t their full story—to them, it is more than just volleyball. The Lady Bobcats also strive to be women of character both on and off the court, and they will be quick to tell you they intend to work hard in the classroom to retain the Team GPA trophy which they held all of last season!
Good luck to the Lady Bobcats on an all-around successful 2017 season!