The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats traveled to Conway, Arkansas Thursday to face the Central Baptist College Mustangs.
Things got off to a shaky start for the Lady Cats as the Mustangs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. An error by the Mustangs, followed by a Morgan Austin kill and a Ryley Thixton ace, would get the Lady Cats on the board. Tied at three, the Mustangs broke the serve and continued their attack. A 7-3 run saw the score climb to 10-6, Mustangs. An error would give the Lady Cats a point and the serve, but CBC answered with a kill to take it back. Another 7-4 Mustang run increased the Lady Cat deficit to 17-10. The Lady Cats were searching for a run of their own to claw back into the set. A Morgan Austin ace would cut the gap to 19-15 but that would be as close as the Lady Cats would get. The Mustangs would outscore the Lady Cats 6-4 to take the set 25-19.
C of O huddled up to regroup for set two. A CBC error and a Ryley Thixton ace would put the Lady Cats on top 2-0 to start the set. The Mustangs answered and it appeared that set two would be an intense battle. The Lady Cats continued to hold a slim advantage as the teams traded points to a 14-14 tie. The back and forth action continued until a Bailey Chamberlain kill, a Mica Chadwell ace, and an error by the Mustangs put the Lady Cats up 20-17. CBC took a timeout, but C of O maintained their edge. The Mustangs fought back to within one, 24-23 but a Lady Cat timeout was followed by a CBC service error and the Lady Cats took set two, 25-23.
All tied at one win apiece, it was time for CBC to regroup. Regroup they did, and a near carbon copy of set one followed. A quick 3-0 Mustang lead was slowly increased as the Lady Cats could not put together a run. Fighting to stay within striking distance, the Lady Cats trailed 15-10 just past the midway point. Every Lady Cat Challenge was answered by the Mustangs and the deficit continued to grow. Trailing 24-16, a service error by the Mustangs and an Abi Menzies kill would give the Lady Cats a glimmer of hope. A Mustangs kill quickly extinguished the hope and the set ended, 25-18.
With their backs to the wall, the Lady Cats needed to bounce back in order to force a fifth and deciding set. CBC had the momentum and had a four-set victory in their sights. Another 3-0 start for the Mustangs did not help the Lady cat cause. A CBC service error and an Abi Menzies kill put the Lady Cats on the board and hoping for some momentum of their own. The Mustangs, however, were not ready to relinquish control. A 6-3 run put them up 9-5 and it seemed as though the set was slipping away from the Lady Cats. CBC continued to attack but the Lady Cats were determined to answer. Trailing 14-10, the Lady Cats remained in contention. The Mustangs then turned up the pressure and the Lady Cats could not catch a break. Scoring the next five points, the Mustangs took a commanding 19-10 lead. A C of O timeout followed, and the Lady Cats needed a game changer. The timeout seemed to do the trick as kills by Abi Menzies, Bailey Chamberlain and Ryley Thixton would pull the Lady Cats to within three, 22-19. The Mustangs continued to fight off the Lady Cat rally and the comeback effort fell short. The Mustangs took set four, 25-22 and the match, 3-1.
When asked about her team’s performance, Coach Muckenthaler stated, "Over the course of four sets, we saw a lot of growth. It wasn't the outcome we wanted, but definitely a learning opportunity. CBC did a great job attacking our defense and we struggled at the net, which hasn't been a weakness for us yet this season. For the end of September, we're still on a great track but we are ready to get back in the gym and fix the holes we have."
Ryley Thixton led the way for the Lady Cats with 12 kills and 11 digs. Morgan Austin contributed 31 assists and 11 digs while Mica Chadwell led the defensive effort with 18 digs. Abi Menzies chipped in nine kills and Kiley Counts contributed nine digs in the match.
The Lady Cats will be back in action Tuesday, September 28, as they take on Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Game time is set for 6 PM.