Osage’s Wood smacks down game-winning kill and block

School of the Osage junior Carson Wood had an extra pep in her step Monday night in the opening round of Class 3 District 10 play against Eldon.

The high-flying junior middle blocker could be found all over the court, but her presence at the net was what counted the most in a two-set sweep over the visiting Mustangs. Wood had the game-winning kill in the first set to give the Indians a 25-22 win and her block in the second put the Indians in the next round as they topped the Mustangs 25-20.

“I wanted to give it everything I had and make sure that I basically showed my teammates that I did everything I could. I was tired by the end,” Wood said with a smile, “and I just wanted to get that last block so I just went for it. It is one of those things where you play for so long that you just have to go for it and trust yourself.”

Good thing that Wood’s teammates were all on the same page too in a game where neither side gave much leeway.

In the first set, there were eight lead changes and 10 ties with Osage’s biggest lead being four and Eldon’s biggest lead being two points respectively. The Mustangs had a late 22-21 lead, but the Indians went on a 4-1 run behind the serving of senior middle blocker Kenzie King to end it.

In the second set, Osage never trailed. The score was tied three separate times, but the Indians always managed to regain the lead with the largest advantage being five points. Eldon fought back late and scored four unanswered points to make it 21-20, but once again, Osage went on another run and scored four straight points to finish it.

“We get a special kind of charge out of playing Eldon,” Osage coach Travis Squire said about the Highway 54 neighbors. “My coaching staff and I talk about this all the time. Eldon, like no other team, gets us to hit the floor more, transition faster and just play with more grit. After all, it is a rivalry.

“The scores flipped several times and both teams had to rebound and find their intestinal fortitude, if you will, to move on,” the coach added.

There may have also been a little extra motivation too after the Mustangs knocked off Osage in the Versailles Tournament just a little over a week ago.

“I think losing to them in the tournament really sparked us up and made us realize that we need to get going,” King noted.

But the biggest factor of all may have simply been the resiliency and leadership on display by an experienced veteran Osage squad that features six seniors on a varsity roster of 10 players. No matter the situation, Osage stayed calm, collected and relatively error-free, forcing Eldon to make the plays to beat them.

“That would not have been the case two years ago,” Squire pointed out. “A lot of the girls are seniors and have been here. They have disappointed themselves, they’ve failed to find that competitive edge and I think we found it more than not this year. In fact, we’ve found it quite a bit and this has been a good season for us.”

The season may be over for Eldon, but Coach Laura Baucom said it was one to be proud of finishing the year at 24-8 and playing in three tournament championships where the Mustangs won one of them.

“Our last game did not go as we hoped as we played timid and nervous with low energy, but reflecting on our season I am very pleased,” she said. “We had a focus of getting better every day and I believe toward the end of the season we played our best volleyball.”

Baucom said part of the credit certainly goes to the coaching staff.

“I am beyond grateful to have such a great coaching staff this year,” the coach pointed out. “Juillet Zumedome has been great organizing many tasks, Beth Zrantz brings a solid foundation of skills and player development to the freshman team and Ann Gulshen was a mentor and also a key to our success. Volleyball pours out of her and our players soak her up and learn how to win. I continue to be in awe of all her knowledge and wisdom and 2017 has been great.”

Wood led the Osage attack with seven kills while King put up four. Also keeping the Indians on the offensive was senior setter Rose Colonius who put up 15 assists and sent three of her 12 serves straight to the ground on Eldon’s side of the court for three aces. Defensively, Wood posted three blocks and 14 digs while freshman outside hitter Sara Wolf recorded six and Colonius finished with five.

“Carson and Kenzie did a good job of pounding away at the ball tonight,” Squire noted. “I’ll also give a huge shout out to (senior) Maddie Henley’s scrappy defense at the net to keep some balls alive that shouldn’t have probably been humanly possible to keep alive.”

Eldon senior middle hitter Grace Baucom had eight kills to lead the Mustangs while junior middle hitter Dakota Graham added six to go with three aces. Senior setter Leah Stichler put up nine assists while Baucom added four to keep the Mustangs in it. Defensively, senior defensive specialist (libero) Bailey Farris recorded a team-leading 11 digs while Baucom finished with eight.

Squire also took some time to acknowledge the play on the opposite side of the court from Baucom.

“She did a lot for her team,” Squire stated. “She played defense, she set the ball well and hammered the ball well.”

Coach Baucom said it has been a blast to coach her daughter.

“I felt I was very blessed and we had a great time with each other,” the coach said. “I am very proud of her.”

Osage (22-6-2) already broke the school record for single-season wins that was set by last year’s squad, which finished with 20 respectively. However, the work is not done yet though as the Indians were scheduled to host top-seeded Helias Catholic (27-4-1) in the district semifinals Tuesday night.

“We are going into this game with nothing to lose,” Squire said Monday night. “They are going to see us hit hard and we are going to play hard. We don’t have any other expectations other than to go out there and leave 100 percent of our effort on the floor.”

Wood, for one, knows just how much energy it will take.

“We are really just hoping to be that scrappy team that we were tonight so we are hoping that we can just give it everything we have and maybe they won’t be ready for it,” she said.