Fall 2022 Preview: Ozark Volleyball

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By Dana Harding (for OzarksSportsZone.com)

Ozark Volleyball has had another successful campaign in 2021 thanks, in part, to a deep and talented senior class.

The Tigers went 21-12, falling in the district semifinals to eventual champion Nixa.

Head coach Adeana Brewer, entering her ninth season at the helm of Ozark, believes the strong influences instilled by her graduates will pay off for a relatively young and inexperienced team this season.

“We were a veteran team last year with great chemistry and incredible leadership that made the season so enjoyable and competitive,” Brewer said. “Our program has achieved many accomplishments and the senior class has left a lasting impact on what we want our culture to be and has instilled a drive for success in the underclass who will fill their shoes.”

Graduates Hannah Vorhies, Ellie Schrader, Madison Reed, Grace Hall, Taylor Sampson, Kelly Sims and Kenna Humble are all leaving the program.

Vorhies received all-state honors last season. She would continue her volleyball career at the collegiate level (Drury University), as would Schrader (Pitt State University), Reed (Pitt State University) and Hall (Missouri S&T).

“We will undoubtedly miss our top-class leadership skills,” Brewer said. “They showed a level of maturity that was fun to coach and be around. Together, they set high expectations for themselves and held themselves and the rest of their teammates accountable. They made people around “They were the best. They were selfless, took initiative, and showed great character.

Talented graduates usually open the door for new players to step into leading roles.

The next Ozark star is junior outside hitter Reagan Baade.

Baade, a six-rotation player, finished the 2021 season with 200 kills, 17 blocks, 302 digs, 17 assists and 25 aces.

“Reagan is very nimble and fast,” Brewer said. “She plays excellent ground defense and is one of the best serve-receiver passers in our gym. She has a spring in her attack and a determination to kill. Her demeanor on the floor is composed and competitive and she makes others around her better. She will be a great leader for Ozark this fall.

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Baade will be joined in the lineup by fellow returnees Skylar Hilton, Ashya Thompson, Jenna LaBarge, Anna Howe, Emma Godwin and Sophie Morris.

Hilton, a sophomore middle hitter, entered the varsity roster midway through the season as a rookie and recorded 57 kills and 20 blocks.

“Skylar tried hard off-season to get stronger and faster in the middle,” Brewer said. “She brings height to our front line and should be a force in the middle for us offensively this season.”

Thompson, a junior middle hitter, split her time between varsity and junior varsity in 2021 and finished her college season with 37 kills and 25 blocks.

“Ashya really put in a lot of work in the middle in the offseason to become strong and dominant,” Brewer said. “She is a smaller midfielder so she has to work a bit harder than most midfielders to block and attack over or around the block. She works so hard, I have no doubt that her work ethic alone will allow her to perform on the pitch.

LaBarge, a junior/Libero defensive specialist, also split his time between college and JV last season, posting 130 digs, 13 assists and 8 aces.

“Jenna will be competing for the libero spot,” Brewer said. “But with her consistency in receiving serve and her ability to anticipate and read on defense, she will help anchor our backcourt this fall.”

Senior libero Anna Howe will also see an increased role this season, after registering 55 digs and 6 assists last year in limited college action.

“Anna is not afraid to take on a leadership role and she is disciplined on and off the court,” Brewer said. “She had some playing time at the college level last season, but her role will become more consistent in her senior year.”

Seniors Emma Godwin and Sophie Morris are also returning to the lineup with the prospect of increased roles.

“Emma is a competitive athlete who can do anything well,” Brewer said. “A utility player who will compete for some game time in both the front and back row.

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“Morris is a right-back/midfielder who has played regularly in these roles as a JV player. She will be competing for playing time in the front row. She has an extremely fast arm swing and gives us good depth in these positions.

In addition to its returning core, Ozark will rely on a trio of college newcomers this season to make an immediate impact on the roster of Reece Cook, Tara Venable and Emery Southerland.

Cook, a second-year passer, will take the No. 1 spot on the varsity team in 2022.

“Reece will easily transition to our college setting position,” Brewer said. “His work ethic is second to none and his desire for Ozark volleyball to be the best is unmatched. She has already demonstrated her ability to lead the team vocally and emotionally on the pitch and I expect her to do great things over the next three years.

Venable, a talented freshman outside hitter, is expected to start on the jump for the Tigers.

“Tara hits the ball incredibly hard from a high point of contact,” Brewer said. “She is able to go on the attack and execute a variety of attacking options on the front line. I’m thrilled to have a freshman with the potential she holds in our line-up.

Southerland, a junior right-back, is entering her first year at Ozark.

“Emery is joining our program this year after homeschooling,” Brewer said. “She is left-handed on the right side, which should give us another good option on the right side. She has a very fast arm movement and has good body awareness and a confident presence on the court.

While the Tiger lineup will field a host of new faces, Brewer has high hopes after watching his team compete over the summer.

“We will be a young team, but we have already shown so much maturity, courage and determination this summer,” said Brewer. “Our team’s expectations are high and we believe that if we hit all the cylinders, we have an opportunity ahead of us to go far in the playoffs. Our team can take the first half of the season to work out some issues, but our potential has a very high ceiling.

That potential will largely depend on Cook’s ability to adapt quickly to college level and blend in with the many new faces around him.

“Our lead setter will be new to the court this year as a college player, but she hasn’t skipped a beat to take on that role this summer,” Brewer said. “The key thing we expect from her is getting consistent balls in place to allow our hitters to get the job done. She possesses so much more, her composure, consistency and leadership skills surpass her years. I’m excited to see his quarterback our offense this coming season.

At net, Brewer expects Ozark forwards to be dynamic and versatile this season.

“Our attacking options are a bit wider this year with the players we have on the pitch,” Brewer said. “It will put a little more pressure on our opposing team to keep up with our hitters and they may have to work a little harder to put in a solid double block. Hopefully this year our offense will be a bit more balanced and we have a number of attacking options to choose from.

Ozark opens its season August 27 in Rogers, Ark. against Rogers Heritage.

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