By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
It was a rough start in more ways than a loss for Ozark Christian College on Thursday in opening its bid to repeat as champion of the ACCA National Tournament.
First, the No. 1-seeded Ambassadors lost junior standout Bethany Decker. OCC’s only returning starter, its setter, was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.
Then, on their floor Thursday night, the young Ambassadors — all nine of their players are freshmen in eligibility with the absence of Decker — were outlasted by Emmaus Bible College.
Emmaus rallied to prevail 14-25, 25-14, 25-13, 23-25, 15-12 in the Pool A match.
“Bethany (Decker) was hospitalized this morning,” OCC coach Tony Allmoslecher said. “She didn’t feel good at our breakfast (where Decker, from Aurora, received the ACCA Player of the Year Award). She went home and her mother called to say she hadn’t improved. And the decision was made to put her in the hospital.
“We’re so young. I’m proud of the way the girls battled,” Allmoslecher said. “I wanted them to compete. They did just that. I’m proud of them.”
Said Emmaus coach Neil Pitman: “Ozark Christian was tough. They worked hard to expose our weaknesses. Our girls were mentally prepared and they kept trying to execute and do what they were supposed to do. They stayed with it.”
The fourth-seeded Eagles, from Dubuque, Iowa, improved to 16-5.
OCC leaders included Amy Huitt (14 digs, 17 assists) and 6-foot Carrie Page (eight blocks, 12 kills).
Second-seeded Hillsdale Free Will Baptist (Moore, Okla.) defeated sixth-seeded Barclay (Haviland, Kan.) 25-13, 25-17, 25-15; No. 3 Arlington (Texas) Baptist beat seventh-seeded Central Christian (Moberly, Mo.) 26-24, 25-14, 25-22, and fifth-seeded Calvary Bible (Kansas City, Mo.) swept No. 8 Champion (Hot Springs, Ark.) in Thursday’s other pool matches.
Pool matches today for OCC (24-16) at the Sports Park of Southwest Missouri on Court A are at noon against Calvary Bible and at 4 p.m. against Champion.
Court A—Arlington vs. Barclay, 10 a.m.; Hillsdale vs. Arlington, 2 p.m. Court B—Hillsdale vs. Central, 10 a.m.; Emmaus vs. Champion, noon; Barclay vs. Central, 2 p.m., Emmaus vs. Calvary, 4.