The College of the Ozarks Lady Cat Volleyball team wrapped up their shortened Spring 2021 campaign in dramatic fashion Friday as they came away with a five-set victory at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR.
After a long layoff, the Lady Bobcats made their way south and had to shake off some early rust to fight back for the win. The first set was close from the onset with neither team leading by more than three points thoughout. Late in the set the Lady Cats tied the score at 21 with a Ryley Thixton Kill off an assist by Emily Aldridge. Another Thixton Kill set up by Aldridge would give the Lady Cats a 22-21 lead. The lead would be short lived as CBC fought back and regained the lead, 23-22. A Morgan Austin kill tied it at 23 but CBC answered to go up 24-23. Another Aldridge set to Thixton for the kill would tie it again at 24. CBC was able to squeak out the next two points and took set one, 26-24.
The Lady Cats could not get the momentum on their side as the second set was in the hands of the Mustangs from the beginning. The Lady Cats remained within striking distance throughout the set but could never break through for the lead and CBC took set two, 25-21.
Set three was much the same until a Ryley Thixton kill to tie the score at 18. The Lady Cats finally broke through with some momentum and avoided the three-set sweep by finishing on a 7-3 run and a final score of 25-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Lady Cats quickly found themselves down 12-7 in set four. A series of Mustang errors, combined with four straight kills by Ryley Thixton, and kills by Morgan Austin and Kaylan Nunez, the Lady Cats went on a 7-0 run to lead 14-12. Momentum had definitely shifted, and the Lady Cats did not look back. CBC put together a run of their own, but the Lady Cats continued to answer and won set four, 25-22 to force a fifth and final set.
The final set seemed to be a mirror image of the previous two. The Lady Cats trailed until a Morgan Austin kill evened the score at 12 apiece. A CBC error followed by a Nunez kill would put C of O on top 14-12. A couple of Lady Cat errors would force a timeout and the score was even at 14. A Thixton Kill made it 15-14 Lady Cats but the Mustangs answered with a point to make it 15 all. The Lady Cats kept the pressure on the Mustangs and forced two straight errors to take set five 17-15 and the match, 3-2.
Following the game, Coach Muckenthaler stated, “Coming out of a quarantine situation, with limited practice and still missing two players, I was pleased with our performance. CBC did a great job defensively and they keyed on taking us out of our system. It took us two sets to adjust but I’m proud of the way we stepped up to the challenge. We could have thrown in the towel at any point in the third set, but we battled back and showed a lot of grit. Coming back to win in five sets was big and a good way to finish our season.”
The Lady Cats were led by Emily Aldridge with 50 assists, four kills, and 22 digs. Ryley Thixton piled up 27 kills and 16 digs, while Morgan Austin contributed 16 kills, Amelia Whatley, nine, and Kaylan Nunes added five. Micah Chadwell led the defensive effort with 36 Digs to go along with three assists.
The Lady Cats finish the shortened season with a 5-1 record and a lot of experience for the young team to build on in the future.