By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Joplin’s rally in the second set fell short as Kickapoo outlasted the Eagles 25-15, 25-22 in an Ozark Conference match Tuesday night at the Joplin High School 9th & 10th Grade Campus.
The two teams traded points in the second set until Joplin broke out to a 13-11 lead behind kills by Bekah Bjorkland and Leah Rader. The Eagles’ largest lead of the night was three points at 17-14 on a block by Jacqueline Lieurance and 19-16 on a kill by Olivia Hampton.
From there, the Chiefs, 15-8 overall and 6-0 in the conference, scored the next seven points and took a 23-19 lead. Joplin pulled to within 23-22 before the Chiefs scored the last two points on a kill by Rachel Rippee and a block by Emily Thater.
“Our girls fought hard in that second game,” said Joplin head coach Staci Saunders. “I felt like our defense played so well. In the second game, we pulled together as a team and played like we’ve been playing.”
The Eagles’ Anna Banwart had eight digs and Jenna Herr had six digs.
“Jenna Herr, Anna Banwart and Sidnee Palmer played excellent defense,” Saunders said. “We came up short, but they played their hearts out.”
Joplin, 21-9, 4-2, recovered from a slow start in the first set and pulled to within 18-15 before the Chiefs scored the last seven points. Kickapoo’s Maris Below, a 6-foot senior, had 10 kills and 14 digs in the two sets.
“We’re coming along. We’re playing real well as a team right now,” said Kickapoo head coach Debbie Downs. As the Chiefs rallied late in both sets, “We definitely had them looking at matchups and where we had a size advantage.”
Thater, a 6-3 senior middle blocker, scored two of Kickapoo’s last five points in the first set and three of the last six points in the second set.