The All-Ozarks volleyball team once again features a heavy dosage of Ozark Lady Tigers, the area's most dominant team.
This year, seniors Jackie Fugate and Bridget Justis represent the Christian County school for coach Becky Justis.
It's the fourth straight year for Ozark to land two players on the team, which expanded from six to seven players last season to accommodate the libero position.
Ozark made state for the fourth straight season and took third. Mountain Grove took third in Class 2 and landed Maddie Halford on the team. Class 1 state champion Winona had two players -- Nola McAfee and Rachel Holthaus -- make the second team.
It's wide open next year: All seven first-team selections this year are seniors.
-- Matt Schoch
MARIS BELOW KICKAPOO SENIOR
Below was a great leader and performer for the Kickapoo volleyball team, which finished as runner-up to Ozark in the powerful Class 4, District 12 field. The Lady Chiefs finished 21-9 and swept through all nine Ozark Conference games.
"As a six-rotation player, she has proven herself as one of the most powerful outside hitters in the area and has been a tremendous team leader over the last season," Kickapoo coach Debbie Downs said. "There is no question that she influences those around her in a positive and intense manner."
Below had 219 kills, 134 digs and 30 assists for the Chiefs.
College: Signed with Miami (Ohio)
JACKIE FUGATE OZARK SENIOR
Fugate was the only player in the Ozark program to be a four-time state qualifier, playing all four of her years on varsity. This year, she was a leader of a deep group of powerful hitters.
"This year she really stepped up in her leadership of the front row in teaching the young players. She became our go to player when we needed a sideout or needed the big block," Ozark coach Becky Justis said. "She's a tremendous athlete in that she is a big contributor in both volleyball and basketball."
Fugate had 216 kills for an average of 2.5 kills per game. She also added 87 kill blocks and 44 digs.
College: Signed with Evangel
MADDIE HALFORD MOUNTAIN GROVE SENIOR
An All-Ozarks second-team player last season, Halford led the Lady Panthers to the Final Four, where they finished third.
"Maddie really upped her game this year in consistency and leadership," Mountain Grove coach Amy McNew said. "She has developed into a very aggressive and consistent hitter and her blocking improved greatly. She definitely was the engine that drove this team."
Halford, a first-team all-state selection by the coaches' association, had 396 kills, 52 blocks and 42 aces, along with a .426 block percentage.
College: Signed with Drury
SAM STILES ROGERSVILLE SENIOR
The Class 3 Wildcats are once again represented on the All-Ozarks team this year after no Rogersville representatives made the first team last season.
Stiles, their top hitter, led Rogersville to a 28-10-1 mark and a state quarterfinal appearance.
"She led us not only by play on and but off the court by her example of hard work, dedication and character," Rogersville coach Tammy Miller said. "Her leadership and dedication to our program will be greatly missed."
Stiles had 141 digs, 12 aces, 50 blocks and 273 kills.
TESSA THORNTON WILLARD SENIOR
The four-year starter culminated a fine career for the Lady Tigers, who finished 27-6-1. Her season earned her first team All-Central Ozark Conference, all-district, second-team all-region and honorable mention all-state honors.
"Her natural athleticism, combined with her work ethic, commitment, and love of the game have gotten her to this point in her career," Willard coach Jamalee Hancock said. "She is an all-around volleyball player, the complete package."
Thornton led the Tigers with 228 kills, 64 kill blocks and a service percentage of .976. She also was second on the team with 221 digs.
College: Committed to Missouri Valley
SARAH KREUL REPUBLIC SENIOR
Kreul is one of two second-time selections to the All-Ozarks team. The setter also helped the Lady Tigers to a 28-8 season, and district championship for the second straight year.
"Sarah is an amazing athlete with an incredible work ethic," Republic coach Piper Wright said. "She is a true leader on and off the court. She has been a huge part of our team success and is a joy to coach."
Kreul had 763 assists, 95 kills and 144 digs this season and a .962 serve percentage.
College: Committed to College of the Ozarks
BRIDGET JUSTIS OZARK SENIOR
Justis once again proved herself to be among the area's most valuable players, and the libero is a second-time All-Ozarks first-team selection.
"Her tenacity and her fire are her two biggest assests in that very little drops to the floor when she is in the back row," said Bridget's mother and coach, Becky Justis. "The bigger the hitter the more she loves to dig them. She does an incredible job of reading the hitters and also does most of the serve receiving."
Justis had 629 serve receives for the Lady Tigers and 567 defensive digs. She had was 97 percent on serving and broke all the back row school records in three seasons.
College: Signed with Drury
Danielle Curnes, Reeds Spring, jr. Hope Joyner, Carl Junction, sr. Morgan Kensinger, Fair Grove, sr. Nola McAfee, Winona, sr. Emily Thater, Kickapoo, sr. Setter: Rachel Holthaus, Winona, soph. Libero: Erica Walters, Mount Vernon, sr. CLASS 4Maris Below, Kickapoo Lexi Birlew, Republic Jackie Fugate, Ozark Emily Thater, Kickapoo Tessa Thornton, Willard Setter: Sarah Kreul, Republic Libero: Bridget Justis, Ozark CLASS 3Maria Chism, Carl Junction Danielle Curnes, Reeds Spring Hope Joyner, Carl Junction Peyton Peavey, Bolivar Sam Stiles, Rogersville Setter: Bradyn Wall, Carl Junction Libero: Erica Walters, Mount Vernon CLASS 2Bailey Baumann, Clever Shelby Clifton, Mountain Grove Maddie Halford, Mountain Grove Morgan Kensinger, Fair Grove Kalli Simmons, El Dorado Springs Setter: Jamie Mauss, Ash Grove Libero: Madi Johnson, Ash Grove CLASS 1Alyssa Young, Billings Nola McAfee, Winona Krishna Merriman, Pierce City Kaitlyn Schrock, Osceola Brianna Zebert, Pierce City Setter: Rachel Holthaus, Winona Libero: Adrean Reynolds, Winona