Point Lookout, MO - As the 2023-24 campaign for Lady Cat Volleyball begins, experience and maturity will be key components of development as the season progresses. With a roster comprised of six freshmen, six sophomores, three juniors, and no seniors, youth will be an early theme on both sides of the net. With the sophomores and juniors gaining valuable experience a year ago, Coach Stacy Muckenthaler (10th Season) will rely on them to mentor the younger players in what is hoped to be a rapid growth process.
The Lady Cats took the court at Keeter Gymnasium Friday night and by all indications, there is a lot to be excited about with this year’s crew. In a nail-biting, five set loss to Avila University, the Lady Cats gave the packed gym an action-packed welcome to the 2023-24 C of O sports season.
In the opening set, the Lady Cats used the electricity provided by the energetic student section and battled their way to a 25-21 win. Kills by Bailey Chamberlain (SO. – Dexter, MO), Brooklyn Crawford (SO. – Marshfield, MO), Christa Duffel (SO. – Strafford, MO) and newcomer, Abby Chadwell (FR. – Strafford, MO) led the attack and solid play on the defensive side by junior Libero, Mica Chadwell (Strafford, MO), Jocee Pettyjohn (SO. – Lebanon, MO) and Kamryn Link (FR. – Jackson, MO) set the tone for the match.
The visitors from Kansas City found their stride in the second set and the battle was on from the opening serve. The two teams traded points throughout the set, and neither could build a lead. Bri Linehan (SO. – Rogersville, MO) hit her stride and began slamming her way to a match-high 16 kills. Avila began to pull away at the midway point, after the teams played to a 10-10 tie. The Eagles put together a 7-3 run to take a 17-13 lead, and the Lady Cats needed to respond. The Lady Cats battled back to a 24-23 score, but the Eagles held off the comeback bid and took set two, 25-23.
Set three saw the Eagles use their new-found momentum and they jumped out to an early lead. The Lady Cats tried to claw their way back into contention but found themselves down 22-13 with time running out. Kills by Bri Linehan and Bailey Chamberlain provided a glimmer of hope, but the Eagles regained their composure and finished off the 25-19 win.
The Lady Cats needed to find an answer, or the big C of O crowd would have an early trip home. Kills by Linehan, Crawford, and Abby Chadwell started things off on the right foot as the Lady Cats built an early 8-2 lead. The trio of Lady Cats picked up some help from Madelyn Sestak and Bailey Chamberlain and they continued to apply pressure to the Eagles. The defensive efforts by Mica Chadwell, Pettyjohn, and Link combined with the offensive attack, and the Lady Cats pulled away for a 25-19 win.
The fifth and final set was sure to be an intense tug of war. The Eagles gained the early upper hand, but the Lady Cats refused to flinch. Linehan, A. Chadwell, Chamberlain, and freshman Emma Godwin (Ozark, MO) slammed their way to a 7-7 tie and the tension mounted. The teams traded points, but the Eagles seemed to have the edge. With the Lady Cats trailing 14-13 and, on the ropes, Coach Muckenthaler took a timeout to try and break the Eagle focus. A hard-fought point followed, and the Eagles landed the final blow and took the set 15-13, and the match 3-2.
Coach Muckenthaler was pleased with the effort and performance of her young team. “Even though we came up a short on the scoreboard, this was a great opportunity to see where we are and what we need to work on. We saw a lot of positives and we will continue to get better with experience.”
Bri Linehan led the offensive attack with 16 kills and Abby Chadwell slammed down 14. Kamryn Link recorded 36 assists in her collegiate debut and Mica Chadwell led the defensive effort with 28 digs. Jocee Pettyjohn and Kamryn Link contributed 13 digs each in the loss.
The Lady Cats have a busy week ahead as they head to Stephens College Wednesday, play at home Thursday (7 PM), then host the Lady Cat Fall Classic Tournament Friday and Saturday. Match times are 2:00, 4:00, and 6:00 Friday, and 10:00am, Noon, 2:00, and 4:00 Saturday.