Lady Crusaders face defending state champs today

Lisa Bruns (12), who leads Helias in kills this season, and the rest of the Lady Crusaders will take on Ozark today in a Class 4 sectional contest in Columbia.

Lisa Bruns (12), who leads Helias in kills this season, and the rest of the Lady Crusaders will take on Ozark today in a Class 4 sectional contest in Columbia. Photo by News Tribune.

Taking on the state’s defending champion? No problem.

Playing the biggest team you’ve faced all season? No problem.

Trying to beat one of the nation’s best players? No problem.

Facing all those factors combined? Well, that could be a problem.

When the Helias Lady Crusaders take to the court today for a Class 4 sectional volleyball contest at Rock Bridge High School, they won’t be matching up with just any squad.

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Lisa Bruns (12), who leads Helias in kills this season, and the rest of the Lady Crusaders will take on Ozark today in a Class 4 sectional contest in Columbia.

The Lady Crusaders will play third-ranked Ozark at 4:30 p.m., taking on the team that beat them in the quarterfinals last year on its way to winning the state title.

And while the Lady Tigers graduated eight players, it’s not like they’re hurting this season.

“They have all their big hitters back from last year,” Helias coach David Harris said. “The main concern is Jade Hayes, who was the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year last year as a junior and also prepvolleyball. com named her the national junior player of the year.”

Hayes, a 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter, also spent the summer playing for the USA team that took the silver medal in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. She’s committed to play for Missouri next season.

“Obviously, things run through her,” Harris said. “She’s a great defensive player and offensive player. It’s like they always say, you’re not going to stop her, you just hope to contain her.”

But Hayes isn’t the only weapon for the Lady Tigers, as they boast three 6-foot-1 players and another three who are 6-foot. So while Helias (30-4-1) has enjoyed a size advantage against most teams this season, they won’t have that on the their side against Ozark (34-5).

“They’ll be the biggest team we’ve faced this year, so we’re working on trying to deal with that,” Harris said. “But our girls do go up against some pretty good-sized players in practice.”

That includes 6-1 Krista Haslag, who leads Helias in blocks (77 in 79 games), as she has set the school’s single-season record for assist blocks and total blocks. She is also second in kills (141).

Helping her out is 6-2 Anna Murphy, who is second in blocks (42) and fourth in kills (89). The Lady Crusaders have eight players with 50 or more kills this season, led by Lisa Bruns’ 171. Bruns is also second on the team in digs (198) and third in blocks (32).

Katie Sauer, who is third in kills (90), leads the team with 51 service aces, while Sidney Lammers in second with 39. Holly Ortmeyer paces the Lady Crusaders with 313 assists, while Lammers is second with 266.

Lauren Eggen is now the school’s single-season leader in digs, as she has a whopping 380.

“We talk all the time about taking care of our side of the court,” Harris said. “If we do the things we’re supposed to do, things will fall into place.”

One thing Helias won’t be concerned with is trying to avenge last season’s loss, as it graduated nine players.

“That was last year,” Harris said. “We were different and they were different, so I don’t put much stock into that.”

Rock Bridge (28-8-2) and Nixa (30-9) will play the other sectional contest at 3 p.m., with the sectional winners meeting at 6 p.m. for a berth in the Final Four, which will be held next weekend at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.

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