Open menu

Lady Cats Fall in NCCAA Semifinal

Dec 01, 2023

#12 Mica Chadwell

Lady Cats

After a dramatic come from behind win a day earlier, the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats were set to face the very talented Grace College Lancers from Winona Lake, Indiana. The semifinal winner would advance to the NCCAA DI Women’s Volleyball National Championship game on Saturday against Mid-America Christian University.

The adrenaline was pumping for both teams as the first two serves sailed out of bounds and the score was tied 1-1. The teams traded points in the early going with the Lady Cats holding a slight advantage. A block and a kill for Abby Chadwell and the same for Christa Duffel gave the Lady Cats a 6-3 lead. Grace quickly bounced back to tie it and the race was on. A Grace error and an Emma Godwin ace kept the Lady Cats on top, but a long rally ended with a Grace point. The crowd was fired up and the match had a championship feel from the opening serve. A Christa Duffel kill was followed by a Grace Hancock slam and the Lady Cats jumped up 10-7. Grace continued to answer, and a Brooklyn Crawford kill was matched by the visitors. The atmosphere in Keeter Gym was electric as the teams battled back and forth. Bri Linehan jumped on the board with her first kill and the Lady Cats led 14-12. Kills by Abby Chadwell and Christa Duffel were followed by a Jocee Pettyjohn ace and Grace needed a timeout, trailing 17-13. The timeout did the trick and Grace scored the first four points out of the huddle. Tied at 17-17, back-to-back Duffel kills kept the lead in the hands of the Lady Cats. Grace continued to challenge, but the Lady Cats held them off. A pair of errors bumped the score to 22-19 and Grace took their final timeout. The teams traded points out of the huddle and a Bri Linehan kill brought up set point. A Grace error sealed the win (25-20) and the Lady Cats took a 1-0 lead.

Set two began with a Grace net violation and the Lady Cats were on the board. Grace quickly responded and the tug of war was underway. Grace took their first lead of the match, 3-2, but a Brooklyn Crawford kill provided the answer. Another long rally ensued, and Grace once again came away with the point. The momentum followed the hard-fought point, and a 5-0 run gave the Lancers an 8-3 lead, forcing a Lady Cat timeout. Grace scored out of the huddle, but an Abby Chadwell kill broke the Lady Cat silence. The Lancers continued to apply pressure and the Lady Cats struggled to gain ground. Determination began to pay off and the Lady Cats slowly chipped away at the lead. A trio of Grace errors cut the gap to 13-10 and the Lancers took a timeout to regroup. The strategy paid off and the Lady Cat momentum stalled. The Lady Cats remained determined however, and a Brooklyn Crawford kill cut the gap to 16-14. Grace continued to hold off the challenges and the Lady Cats were running out of time to make their move. Trailing 20-15, the Lady Cats took a timeout to try and turn the tide. Grace continued to attack, and the Lady Cats struggled to find the answer. A Grace Hancock kill kept the hopes alive, but it was not enough, and Grace took set two, 25-17.

Set three was a battle from the opening serve but kills by Grace Hancock, Brooklyn Crawford, and Christa Duffel gave the Lady Cats a 9-7 lead. The Lancers charged back, but the Lady Cats were determined to hold them at bay. Grace cut the lead to 10-9 before a Crawford kill extended the lead again. A pair of Grace errors built the lead to 13-9, but the Lancers were far from conceding. With the Lady Cats leading 13-12, another long rally ensued. The Lancers took the point again and an ace gave them their first lead. A Grace error tied the score 14-14, but the momentum was on the side of the Lancers. A monster block by Brooklyn Crawford tied the score again and a Christa Duffel block for a point ignited the crowd. Grace took a timeout to quiet the noise and slow the Lady Cat charge. Time would tell if the goal was achieved. A Lancer kill out of the huddle did the trick but kills by Abby Chadwell and Christa Duffel kept the energy alive. Tied 19-19, a Grace kill gave them the narrow advantage. Christa Duffel provided the answer with a kill, and the Lady Cats were looking for a way to climb on top. Brooklyn Crawford answered the call with a kill, but the Lancers quickly answered. Tension mounted as the teams traded points. An Emma Godwin kill propelled the Lady Cats to the lead and Grace took a timeout to talk things over. The race to 25 was heating up and the battle was on. Grace scored the first two points out of the huddle and the Lady Cats took a timeout trailing 23-22. Back-to-back kills by Grace found the hardwood out of the huddle and the set went to the visitors, 25-22.

Now trailing 2-1, the Lady Cats backs were to the wall. It was crunch time and the Lady Cats had work to do. As expected, the teams traded jabs in the opening moments. A Grace error and a pair of Crawford kills gave the Lady Cats the early lead, 3-1. A Crawford, Chadwell block bumped the score another point, but Grace quickly bounced back to even it up. Neither team wanted to give up ground as the battle went back and forth. Grace took their first lead 8-7 and the Lady Cats were now on the defensive. Another trio of Lancer points forced a Lady Cat timeout as the gap had grown to 11-7. The Lady Cats could not afford to fall far behind, and Coach Muckenthaler knew it was time to try and shift the momentum. A C of O point out of the huddle helped, but it was time to string points together. A Christa Duffle block cut the gap to 11-9 before Grace answered. Duffel and Crawford responded with kills, but trading points was the best the Cats could do. Another Crawford kill, a Lancer error, and a long rally won by the Lady Cats tied the score 14-14 and the next Lady Cat point gave them the lead. Bri Linehan slammed home a kill after a Grace point, but the Lancers responded once again. A Lancer block returned the lead to the visitors and the battle was becoming more intense. Linehan pounded another kill to tie the score 17-17, and the Lady Cats were looking to make their move. Grace was doing all they could to hold off the challenges and the pressure mounted. A three-point swing for the Lancers gave them a 21-18 advantage and the Lady Cats needed a timeout. The Lady Cats challenged once again, and a Crawford kill cut the gap to 22-21 to force a Grace timeout. Grace turned up the pressure out of the huddle and scored the next three points to take the set, 25-21, and the match 3-1.

The Lady Cats battled injuries and other obstacles throughout the season but played together as a team and competed night in and night out. The Final Four performance gave the Lancers all they could handle, and the Lady Cats had a lot of bright spots to build on going forward. Without a senior on the team, the Lady Cats will return a solid group who will be prepared to compete at a high level in 2024-25.