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After a long stretch without a home game, the College of the Ozarks Volleyball team was excited to be back in the friendly confines of Keeter Gymnasium. Looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Central Baptist Mustangs, the Lady Cats knew they had their work cut out for them from the opening serve. The two teams traded points in the early going with Central Baptist holding a slim advantage. Kills by Brooklyn Crawford and Abi Menzies tied the score at six and three straight Mustang errors gave the Lady Cats a 9-6 lead. CBC continued to challenge, and the Lady Cats were unable to build a substantial lead. A Ryley Thixton kill kept the lead at three when two straight service points by Kiley Counts forced a Mustang timeout. Coming out of the huddle trailing 14-9, the Mustangs quickly broke the serve and looked to build momentum. Another Thixton kill produced side out for the Lady Cats but CBC answered. A Menzies kill gave the Lady Cats an 18-12 lead and CBC needed to string some points together. They managed two straight points, but the Lady Cats answered with two Menzies kills to put together a run. A Morgan Austin ace made the score 22-14 before CBC could break the serve. CBC scored three of the next four points, but an Abi Menzies kill followed by a kill by Bailey Chamberlain gave the Lady Cats the Set 1 win, 25-17.

Set 2 began as a back and forth battle with neither team able to put together a run. Playing to a 10-10 tie, CBC began to build some momentum and outscored the Lady Cats 7-1 over the next eight points. A Ryley Thixton kill cut the lead to 18-12 but the Lady Cats could not string points together and traded points with the Mustangs. The Lady Cats didn’t go down without a fight and slowly chipped away at the lead. Point by point the Lady Cats were able to claw back to within two, 21-19. CBC answered the challenge and continued to apply pressure. Scoring three of the next four points, the Mustangs moved to set point 24-20. Continuing to fight, the Lady Cats forced three straight errors to pull within one, 24-23. A timeout by CBC was just enough to break the Lady Cat momentum and CBC took Set 2, 25-23. 

The Lady Cats took the early advantage in Set 3 and after several lengthy rallies, led 8-3. CBC was determined to battle back. Point by point the Mustangs put together a 4-0 run and cut the Lady Cat lead to one, 8-7. C of O answered the challenge with two straight points, but CBC did not let up. An Abi Menzies kill gave the Lady Cats a 12-8 lead and they were fighting to keep the momentum. Three more points before the Mustangs could break the serve forced a timeout and the Lady Cats led 15-9. Out of the timeout, Bailey Chamberlain slammed a kill down on the Mustang side of the floor to build a 16-9 lead. CBC Broke the serve with the next point, but C of O continued to apply pressure. The Mustangs were determined to keep the set close and continued to battle. A Ryley Thixton kill put the Lady Cats up 20-12 and they needed to slam the door shut on a Mustang comeback. A long rally fell on the side of the Mustangs and the lead was 21-14. A well-placed tap by Morgan Austin put the Lady Cats up 23-15, just two points away from the set win. CBC scored the next two points, but a Kiley Counts kill produced set point. The Mustangs continued to battle and scored the next four straight points. Things became interesting until a Kiley Counts block landed on the CBC side and the Lady Cats took Set 3, 25-20.

After a quick CBC point to start the fourth set, a Ryley Thixton kill opened the Lady Cat scoring. The two teams traded points early with CBC holding the slight edge. A Ryley Thixton ace gave the Lady Cats their first lead, 4-3. Back to back kills by Brooklyn Crawford built the lead to 7-4 before the Mustangs could break the string. Three straight CBC points tied it at 7-7. Crawford and Menzies teamed up for two big kills and the Lady Cats were back on top 10-7. CBC continued to challenge, and C of O continued to answer. Solid blocks and defense, along with a pair of thunderous Thixton kills, helped the Lady Cats build a 15-10 lead. The Mustangs, however, continued to battle back. A few Lady Cat errors and solid play at the net by the Mustangs swung the momentum to the side of the visitors. Several unanswered points resulted, and the score was quickly tied at 16. A solid block by the Mustangs fell on the C of O side of the net and CBC had their first lead since early in the set. The pressure was now on the Lady Cats and things began to get shaky. Three unanswered points put CBC up 20-17 and the Lady Cats needed to turn the tide to avoid a fifth set. Now trailing 21-19, the Lady Cats took their second timeout to regroup. A service error by the Mustangs was followed by a Brooklyn Crawford ace to tie the score at 21. CBC scored the next two points before a Bailey Chamberlain kill broke the serve. The Lady Cats won the next point after a long rally and took the following point on a Mustang error. Now leading 24-23 and serving set point, the Lady Cats were closing in on a 3-1 win. The Mustangs however, had other plans. Battling back to tie the score, the pressure mounted. Solid play at the net gave the Lady Cats the next point and brought up set point once again. A long rally ensued and a well-placed block by Morgan Austin fell out of reach of the Mustangs and the Lady Cats took Set 4, 26-24 and the match 3-1.

After the match, Coach Stacy Muckenthaler had this to say about her team’s performance: “Central Baptist had a great game plan against us when we went down to their place - they served very aggressive and were able to get us out of system. We struggled hitting against them. Tonight, we were prepared for their style of play and the girls responded incredibly well. This was the most efficient hitting night we’ve had so far and a lot of that is attributed to our passing and Morgan Austin’s decision making. The girls are starting to gel together and find their rhythm. I’m looking forward to hitting the road this weekend and continuing to work on coming together and playing like a solid unit.”

Ryley Thixton led the way with 20 kills for the Lady Cats. Abi Menzies chipped in 10, Bailey Chamberlain added nine and Brooklyn Crawford contributed 8. Morgan Austin tossed up 43 assists while Mica Chadwell led the defensive effort with 20 digs.

The Lady Cats will travel to Arkansas this weekend as they travel to Lyon College Friday and Champion Christian College Saturday.

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