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NCCAA Volleyball Tournament Wraps-Up at College of the Ozarks, Lady Bobcats Finish Strong

Columbia International University from South Carolina comes out on top, claiming the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division One Volleyball Championships at College of the Ozarks.

Columbia beat Judson in the semi-finals and Mid-America Christian in the finals Saturday at the Keeter Athletic Complex.

The host Lady Bobcats, the tournament's seventh seed, made a run after losing their opening match on Thursday. Details below from the release from College of the Ozarks:

The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcat Volleyball team wrapped up the 2021-22 season Friday in the NCCAA DI Women’s Volleyball National Championship Tournament and did so in exciting fashion.
College of the Ozarks vs Columbia International University
After falling to the #2 seed Campbellsville University Tigers in opening pool play action on Thursday, the Lady Bobcats task was no easier on Friday.  Facing the #3 seed, Columbia International University Rams, the Lady Bobcats knew they would have their hands full.
CIU scored first on a kill by Kira Rymer to take the early lead in set one.  Before the Lady Cats could get things going, the Rams had opened a 5-1 advantage. The Lady Cats used a Brooklyn Crawford kill and a pair of Ram errors to cut the deficit to 6-4 but CIU answered with a small run.  CIU continued to apply pressure and the Lady Cats were playing “catch up”. Unable to gain traction, the Lady Cats found themselves in a 16-8 hole and the Rams continued to attack.  Going on a 9-4 run, the Rams would close out the set to win 25-12.
Set two started as an intense battle as the Lady Cats were determined to stay in contention. Trading points through the midway point, the Lady Cats used kills by Brooklyn Crawford, Abi Menzies, Bailey Chamberlain and Ryley Thixton to play to a 15-15 tie.  The Rams gained the advantage on kills by Cintia Lorena and Kira Rymer, and the Lady Cats took a timeout. A Kiley Counts kill would break the serve of the Rams, but it would not slow their attack. The teams traded points the rest of the way and the Rams took set two, 25-22.

Set three was much the same. The Rams took an early advantage and the Lady Cats could not seem to start a run. Slowly, the deficit grew, and the Lady Cats could not get over the hump.  Hanging close to the Rams was all the Cats could do as they trailed by three most of the set. With the Lady Cats trailing 17-14, CIU scored three unanswered points and the set was slipping away. The Lady Cats challenged and added four more points but the CIU attack was too much and they took the set, 25-18, and the match 3-0.

Brooklyn Crawford led the offense for the Lady Cats with nine kills. Abi Menzies added seven, Ryley Thixton tacked on five, Kiley Counts and Bailey Chamberlain each added three and Leatha Keller tacked on one.  Morgan Austin recorded 23 assists in the match and Mica Chadwell had 16 digs to lead the defensive effort.

College of the Ozarks vs Trinity International University
The Lady Cats final opponent in pool play was the Trojans from Trinity International University. The only chance the Lady Cats would have at advancing in the tournament, was a win against TIU to force a tiebreaker.

TIU put pressure on the Lady Cats early with a 14-5 run to start set one.  The Lady Cats chipped away at the lead but could not close the gap. With five unanswered points, sparked by an Abi Menzies kill, the Lady Cats trimmed the deficit to three, 18-15.  The Trojans finally broke the serve and slowed the Lady Cat momentum. TIU put together a 7-3 run and took the set, 25-18.

Now trailing the match 1-0, the Lady Cats had to dig down deep in order to have a shot to keep playing in the tournament.  The Trojans picked up where they left off and scored first. This time the Lady Cats responded, and it appeared as though the battle was on.  Trading points back and forth, TIU seemed to always have the upper hand. A Morgan Austin service ace would give the Lady Cats the lead for the first time, 13-12, but could they maintain the advantage?  Point by point, the Lady Cats held off the challenge and held on to a small lead. The Trojans would tie the score, but the Lady Cats would answer.  With the score knotted at 19, A Ryley Thixton kill would give the Lady Cats the momentum they needed. Another Thixton kill, mixed in with a pair of Mica Chadwell service aces would put the Lady Cats ahead 24-19.  Ryley Thixton slammed another kill down on the Trojan side of the net and the Lady Cats secured the set two win, 25-19. 

Now even at one set apiece, the Lady Cats held the momentum. The third set tug of war began, and the teams traded points to a 5-5 tie.  Determined to get the upper hand, TIU fought to secure the next two points and a swing in momentum. The Lady Cats did their best to keep pace with the Trojans, but the deficit continued to grow. After a 11-6 Trojan run, the Lady Cats trailed 18-11 and things were not looking good. Several small Trojan runs later, the Lady Cats were in a 23-14 hole and staring a 2 sets to one deficit in the face. A Brooklyn Crawford kill propelled the offense and the charge was on. Point after point, the Lady Cats chipped away at the lead and turned up the intensity on defense. Kills by Counts, Menzies, and Austin kept the comeback bid alive and the Lady Cats soon had put together a 9-1 run to tie the score at 24.  A Morgan Austin service ace and another Crawford kill capped off the comeback and the Lady Cats took set three 26-24.

Feeling stunned, the Trojans now had their backs to the wall. The Lady Cats could sense the tenseness and continued to attack. Scoring first, the Lady Cats knew it was time to put the pedal to the floor and continue their charge.  Jumping out to a 9-6 lead, the pressure continued to grow for the Trojans.  Point by point, the Lady Cats continued to edge closer to victory. A Mica Chadwell ace gave the Lady Cats a 17-12 lead and the Trojans’ struggles continued. TIU would close the gap to 21-18 but could not get any closer.  C of O scored kills by Chamberlain and Thixton to take the set, 25-19, and the match 3-1. 

The Lady Cat charge was led by Abi Menzies’ 13 kills.  Brooklyn Crawford and Ryley Thixton each added 12 and Morgan Austin and Bailey Chamberlain each tacked on seven. Morgan Austin contributed 39 assists while Mica Chadwell had 26 digs, Kiley Counts – 17, and Morgan Austin 10. 

With the win, the Lady Cats were in a three-way tie for second place in the pool, and an opportunity to advance to the semi-finals was at hand. To break the tie, the Lady Cats would face TIU in a one set playoff to 25 points. The winner would then face Campbellsville University in a 25-point set to determine the team advancing to the semis.

College of the Ozarks vs Trinity International University – Tiebreaker set

With momentum still on their side, the Lady Cats had good vibes going in to the set. Trinity scored first but the Lady Cats quickly answered. The teams played to a 3-3 tie before TIU would shift the tide in their direction. Slowly the Trojans began to pull away and build a lead. Trailing 9-6, the Lady Cats benefited from a pair of Trojan errors to pull within one.  The tug of war was on and the teams traded points. An Abi Menzies kill would finally pull the Lady Cats even and the set was tied at 13.  The Trojans responded to the Lady Cat pressure and continued to hold a narrow advantage.  A 5-1 Trojan run would put the Lady Cats to the edge of elimination, trailing 20-16. The two teams traded points and the Lady Cats could not turn the tide.  With TIU leading 23-19, the Lady Cats were once again in danger of their season coming to an end. Coach Muckenthaler called a timeout to orchestrate one final push. The Lady Cats had to respond or be eliminated. Back to back kills by Abi Menzies out of the huddle sparked a ray of hope into the Lady Cats, and at the same time, pressure seemed to mount on the Trojans. A Trojan timeout was called to squelch the comeback bid.  A Brooklyn Crawford kill out of the timeout, made things more interesting and the deficit was down to one, 23-22, resulting in yet another TIU timeout. The strategy seemed to work as a Lady Cat error broke the tide and put Trinity one point away from the win. Determination from within the Lady Cats was strong, and they knew they needed big plays if they hoped to move on. A kill by Morgan Austin increased the pressure on the Trojans and the Lady Cats were packed with excitement and intensity. A Trojan error on the next play tied the score at 24 and the crowd was adding to the comeback hopes. The pressure continued to build, and two more solid Lady Cat attacks forced Trojan errors and the Lady Cats took the set 26-24.
College of the Ozarks vs Campbellsville University – Tiebreaker set

The Lady Cats were now set to square off against a rested Campbellsville team, with the winner advancing to the final four. Campbellsville, the number two overall seed, had enjoyed a long break and they came out with a fresh attack.  Thinking they had been eliminated earlier, the Tigers found new life in the tiebreaker scenario, and they were determined not to waste it.

The Lady Cats jumped out to an early 4-1 lead before the Tigers bounced back to tie it at seven. The Tigers had shifted the momentum and began to build a lead. The Lady Cats continued to battle but the deficit slowly grew.  Kills by Abi Menzies and Brooklyn Crawford cut the gap to 17-15 but a Tiger 4-0 run would put the Lady Cats in a tight spot and facing elimination once again. An error by the Tigers gave the Lady Cats some hope of a comeback as they trailed 21-16. A Bailey Chamberlain kill would cut the gap to 23-17 but the Tigers quickly answered with a Paige Merrick kill.  One point away from the season ending, Coach Muckenthaler gave the loyal Lady Cat fans the opportunity to show their appreciation to lone senior Ryley Thixton. Playing in her final set as a Lady Bobcat, the storied senior came off the floor to a standing ovation, recognizing the many contributions she has made to the C of O Volleyball Program. The Tigers scored the next point and took the set, 25-17.

The Lady Bobcats created some excitement in their final push of the tournament and ended the season on a definite high note. Coach Muckenthaler stated, “I was really proud of the fight we showed tonight. We played with a lot of heart and we put on display the type of team we can be when we put our potential in motion. We are so proud of Ryley (Thixton) and the impact she has made on our program.  She will truly be missed, and she has set a high bar for our younger players to follow and strive for.”

The Lady Cats finish the season 14-13 and will look to use this experience to make them better in the 2022 campaign.

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