The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcat Volleyball team traveled to Columbia, Missouri Tuesday to take on the Stars of Stephens College. In a highly contested battle, the Lady Cats come up short in the five-set loss.
The first set put the Lady Cats on the defensive from the opening serve. Stephens put the first three points on the board and the Lady Cats began their uphill battle. A Stephens service error would get the Lady Cat scoring started but a 6-3 Stars run expanded the deficit. Leading the Lady Cats 14-5, a series of errors by Stephens would put together a 4-0 Lady Cat run and bring the score to 14-9. Stephens answered with a run of their own however, and quickly built a 20-11 lead. A 6-2 run by the Lady Cats would get them back into contention and cut the lead to 22-17. Stephens answered the challenge to go up 24-18. A kill by Riley Thixton and back to back aces by Mica Chadwell kept the Lady Cat hopes alive but the rally would be denied and the Stars took set one 25-21.
The Lady Cats late drive in set one would hopefully give them a boost in set two. Stephens posted the first two points, but C of O came charging back. Kills by Ryley Thixton and Bailey Chamberlain sparked a Lady Cat attack and a string of points ensued. Point after point the Lady Cats took control of the set and soon led 15-6. Continuing to apply pressure, Stephens had no answer. A kill by Abi Manezies opened up a 20-9 lead for the Lady Cats. Stephens could not stop the C of O momentum as the teams traded points the rest of the way and the Lady Cats took set two in dominant fashion, 25-14.
Set two would be the last easy battle for the Lady Cats. Stephens regrouped and got back into their first set groove. Opening set three with a 9-3 attack, it appeared Stephens would have an easy victory. The Lady Cats needed a major shift in the tide. Kills by Thixton and Chamberlain, mixed in with a Kiley Counts ace and a series of Stars errors, saw the Lady Cats claw their way back to a 10-10 tie. The battle was on and the two teams began trading points. The tension mounted in a set that would give the winner a 2-1 lead and the definite upper hand in the match. The Lady Cats could not seem to break through as Stephens answered challenge after challenge to maintain a slim lead. A kill by Ryley Thixton gave the Lady Cats their first lead, 20-19 and a Brooklyn Crawford kill made it a two point advantage. After a timeout by Stephens, they battled back to a 23-23 tie. C of O then called a timeout of their own. Stephens Came out of the huddle fired up and scored the next two consecutive points to take the 25-23 win.
Trailing 2-1, the Lady Cats were in a tight spot. Stephens continued to apply pressure in set four and things were not looking good for the Lady Cats. Trading one point for two seemed to be the norm and Stephens built a 15-10 lead just past the midway point. A 4-1 run by Stephens put the Lady Cats at a 19-11 deficit and on the brink of falling in the match. Three Ryley Thixton kills brought the Lady Cats back to within five, 20-15. The Lady Cats began to dig down deep and fight their way back into the set. Kills by Morgan Austin and Abi Menzies sandwiched a Ryley Thixton ace and Stephens needed a timeout. Two Stars errors and a kill by Austin put the Lady Cats back in control with a 24-21 lead. The comeback was capped off with an Abi Menzies kill and the Lady Cats succeeded in forcing a fifth and deciding set with a 25-21 win.
The Lady Cat momentum was short lived as Stephens was determined to defend their home court. Several long rallies ended with points for the Stars and the Lady Cats found themselves trailing once again, 10-6. Coach Muckenthaler called a timeout to regroup and the Lady Cats began to chip away at the lead. One point at a time, the Lady Cats were able to fight back to a 13-12 score. The next point went to Stephens and a looming match point forced another Lady Cat timeout. The Stars came out of the huddle with an added determination and the final point fell on the Lady Cat side of the floor. Stephens took the set 15-12 and the hard-fought match, 3-2.
Four Lady Cats hit double digits in kills with Ryley Thixton leading the way with 16, Bailey Chamberlain and Abi Menzies with 11, and Brooklyn Crawford with 10. Morgan Austin dished out 40 assists while Ryley Thixton contributed 27 digs, Mica Chadwell 21, Kiley Counts chipped in 13 and Leatha Keller added eight.
The Lady Cats hit the road again this weekend as they head to University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy for a tri-match with UHSP and Lincoln Christian. Game times are 11:00 and 1:00 Saturday, October 2.