What the record book for 2018 will show is that a young Kansas City Kansas Community College volleyball team compiled a record of 19 wins, 16 losses.
What it won’t tell you is the 19 wins came playing the toughest NJCAA Division II schedule in the nation; that 15 of the losses came to teams ranked in the Top 20 teams in the nation at one time or another; that five wins came over ranked teams; and that the Lady Blue Devils closed out the season with the biggest Jayhawk Conference upset in several years.
Even better, nine freshmen will be returning next season along with three commitments already in the fold.
“I’m very excited,” eight-year head coach Mary Bruno-Ballou said. “The way our sophomores played the game and the heart they put into helping a predominately freshman team expand and mature is going to carry into what I expect to be a great spring season.”
Two Blue Devils earned post-season honors. Randi Johnson, a sophomore middle blocker from Lee’s Summit who led the team in kills with 381, was named to the All-Region VI first team and Jayhawk All-Conference second team and while freshman outside hitter Amilex Lopez was named to the All-Region second team and earned Jayhawk Conference honorable mention after finishing second in kills (303).
In addition to Johnson, the Blue Devils will lose Libero Kelli Sleefe of Wichita Andover Central, who set an all-time KCKCC career record for digs with 1,120; setter Kelsey Rankin of Omaha, who led the team in assists with 745; and Paige Dresslaer, a setter from Diamond, Missouri.
The returnees will be headed by Lopez, outside hitter Tara Mattingly, third in kills (270); middle blocker Allayah Stillwell, fourth in kills (173); and setter Gracie Golay, second in assists (501).
They will be joined by middle blocker Malaysia St. Clair, outside hitter Katelyn Mask, right side Madison Wright of Piper and defensive specialist Natatlia Vega Apointe.
The Blue Devils will also get the services back of 6-3 Lauren Leavendusky, who was sidelined by a torn ACL last April.
“What the statistics won’t tell you is how much improvement we saw in the team and the hitters from the start of the season to the end,” Bruno-Ballou said. “Our hitters got used to how to play the college game and got smarter and the kills per set and hitting percentage increased throughout the season.”
The improvement was accented in the Region VI playoffs when the Blue Devils stunned No. 3 ranked Highland 3-2 at Highland just five days after the Scotties had blanked No. 1 Coffeyville 3-0. The win snapped a streak of 24 wins in a row for Highland, which finished with a best ever 34-3 record.
It was a banner year for the Jayhawk. In addition to No. 1 Coffeyville and No. 3 Highland, Cowley was No. 4, Johnson County No. 5 and Fort Scott No. 18 in the final NJCAA poll.
In all, seven teams were ranked at one time or another including KCKCC, which was No. 16 early in the season. Two teams, defending national champion Coffeyville and JCCC, are in this week’s national tournament.
Along with playing the four Jayhawk powers, KCKCC also played No. 2 Parkland. In total, 23 of KCKCC’s opponents were nationally ranked at some point in the season and five times KCKCC came out a winner over ranked foes.
“In all five tournaments we played there were at least two ranked teams and the Florida and Parkland tournament each had four teams that were ranked,” says Bruno-Ballou said. “Take away our losses to top ranked teams at tournaments and we only lost seven matches.
“We also had to deal with injuries and game suspensions, which contributed to the flexibility of our team and made it so successful and it can and will make us successful next season.”
A Dads and Kids’ Pizza Night from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at Grant Elementary School, 1510 N. 4th St., will launch a family and community engagement program called WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students).
The program was created in 1998 by parents and educators, and has since grown to one of the largest initiatives of its kind in the nation.
In this program, fathers and father figures take a day off work during the school year and spend the day volunteering in their child’s school.
Each year, the program generates millions of volunteer hours in schools throughout the nation.
The WATCH D.O.G.S. work alongside educators as crossing guards, car-bus rider facilitators, hallway monitors, library assistants, lunchroom helpers, classroom and homework tutors, and playground-gym coaches.
Through the program, students gain a positive male role model, while schools gain extra eyes and ears, and fathers spend more time with their children.