Bruno’s passion for fundamentals has KCKCC in national volleyball tourney

KCKCC coach Mary Bruno, left, keeps a watchful eye on co-captain Blair Russell’s hitting form, one of several fundamentals the Lady Blue Devils undergo daily in preparation for the NJCAA National volleyball tournament in Phoenix, Ariz. Thursday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
KCKCC coach Mary Bruno, left, keeps a watchful eye on co-captain Blair Russell’s hitting form, one of several fundamentals the Lady Blue Devils undergo daily in preparation for the NJCAA National volleyball tournament in Phoenix, Ariz. Thursday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins
KCKCC sports information director

It is not by accident that Kansas City Kansas Community College is headed for the NJCAA National Division II volleyball tournament for the second time in three years.

It will be hard to find any of the other 15 teams in the national tourney better prepared than the way coach Mary Bruno gets the Lady Blue Devils ready for play, spending about 80 percent of their practice time on fundamentals and individual instruction – far more time than the average team.

“Not even close,” said sophomore Kailee Dudley, a July transfer from Butler County.

“Fundamentals every day and we watch film to make sure we’re prepared 100 percent every day,” added sophomore co-captain Blair Russell and the Jayhawk Conference’s Player of the Year.

“It’s reinforcing the correct form,” said Bruno, the architect of KCKCC’s Region N championship team and Jayhawk Co-Coach of the Year. “At the very beginning we train our players in our style of how we do things but at the end of a long season, there’s a tendency for some of the form to get lost so we need to have them revert back to what they did in the past.”

Players are assigned work stations by position.

“We have a box to stand on to work on form for hitting and an Accuspike where the ball is stationary and the focus is on the approach and arm swing,” Bruno said. “The setters work on consistency with a lot of repetitions. We also work on defense with a lot of reps and serving positions.”

The Blue Devils (29-9) also prepared by playing a demanding schedule, playing eight of the other 15 teams in the national tourney including No. 1 Parkland and No. 2 Central Nebraska along with five Division I powers, No. 1 Iowa Western, Missouri State, Indian Hills, Palm Beach State and College of Jacksonville.

“It definitely prepared us to be where we are at the end of the season,” Bruno said.

Seeded No. 7, KCKCC opens up national tourney play Thursday at 11 a.m. against No. 10 Glendale, Ariz., at Phoenix College. A win would most likely set up a third meeting with No. 2 Central Nebraska at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. All games will be streamed and can be seen by going to the NJCAA website and clicking on Division II national tournament.

At the ultimate foundation of the Blue Devil success, however, has been Bruno and her coaching staff of her mother, Dee Bruno, and Paloma Juarez, and managers Cory Roberts, Francelle Gonzalez and Catherine Bruno. Gonzalez, in fact, was instrumental in finding one of the Blue Devil freshmen, Kimberly Martinez.

At the backbone of the success is the fact that Bruno makes the game fun and that the mutual respect goes far beyond what happens on the court.

“I just love her,” said co-captain Lily Thornberg. “She has a real open door policy and we can come in and talk to her about anything and yet she still pushes on the court. She knows what we’re capable of and is not afraid to push us out of our comfort zone.”

One of Thornberg’s most effective moves is “dumping” the ball left-handed just over the net before blockers can react.

“I was doing it with my right hand and getting a lot of net violations so coach Dee (Bruno) spent last year working with me and teaching me when to do it,” Thornberg said.

“She’s a great coach,” echoed Russell. “When I came here I was just athletic. She took my athleticism and made me technically sound. After I tore up my shoulder I was not sure I wanted to play but I’m so glad I did.”

Andrea Aparicio, a native of Puerto Rico who was named Libero of the Year for her defensive play, credits Bruno for helping her make the transition to U.S. college volleyball.

“She takes time to explain what you’re doing and what you need to do in different parts of the game,” Aparicio said.

If there’s an Achilles heel for the Blue Devils is something that can’t be coached, a lack of size. No starter is over 5-foot-11 although 6-2 Saint Mary transfer Peyton Pender sees extended playing time.

Bruno, however, dismisses it as a concern.

“No,” she said. “Nothing we can do for it now and we’ve already played most of the teams.”

Bruno led KCKCC to a sixth place finish in the Blue Devils first ever appearance in the NJCAA national tourney in 2012, earning District N Coach of the Year honors while finishing runnerup for Jayhawk Coach of the Year.

KCKCC plans cross-country ski event

by Kelly Rogge

Kansas City Kansas Community College is planning Cross Country Ski events this winter. This will be the second consecutive year a ski event will be held on the college campus.

The following events are planned for this winter:

• A clinic. This will be held inside to talk about Cross Country Skiing including the equipment needed, waxing, clothes, boots, technique, where to ski, and other information
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• A lesson. This will be for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Everyone is welcomed, even if you do not own a pair of skis. If you do not have skis, a pair will be provided to use during the event.

• A tour. This tour event will be similar to what was held last winter. A track will be created on the east side of campus.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the Cross Country Ski events. Once it snows, a date will be set for the event. This could mean only 12 to 24-hour notice, so that there can be some skiing before the snow begins to melt.

Those who are interested can contact Ron Wollenhaupt, KCKCC Health and Wellness, at ronw@kckcc.edu. Information is also available by contacting Pam Hall at phall@kckcc.edu.
Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

Depth helps KCKCC cage teams to sweep Lindsey Classic games

KCKCC sophomore guard Cassidy Harbert, left, bounces a pass to teammate Cierra Gaines (13) for one of her 12 assists en route to the second triple double of her career in a 96-57 win over Penn Valley Saturday. Harbert also had 14 points and 14 rebounds. (KCKCC photo by Rodney Christensen)
KCKCC sophomore guard Cassidy Harbert, left, bounces a pass to teammate Cierra Gaines (13) for one of her 12 assists en route to the second triple double of her career in a 96-57 win over Penn Valley Saturday. Harbert also had 14 points and 14 rebounds. (KCKCC photo by Rodney Christensen)

by Alan Hoskins

Of the many good things to come out of the 2014 annual Keith Lindsey Classic, the fact both Kansas City Kansas Community College teams can go deep into their benches was one of the best.

The 18th ranked Lady Blue Devils rolled to a 96-57 win over longtime rival Penn Valley Saturday after a 93-41 thumping of Ellsworth on Friday while the KCKCC men held off St. Louis Community College 78-70 after a 76-73 overtime win over On Point Hoops Academy Friday.

Both teams return to action Tuesday, the KCKCC women (4-0) at Saint Mary JV and the Blue Devil men (5-0) at Iowa Western. Both games are at 7 p.m. The Lady Blue Devils then return home this weekend, playing host to Jefferson Friday at 7 p.m. and Wentworth Saturday at 4 p.m., while the KCKCC men play Dodge City Friday and Neosho County Saturday in the Dodge City Classic.

Ahead 44-22 at halftime, the Blue Devils led St. Louis by as many as 24 points early in the second half and still had a 19-point lead with 6½ minutes left when a rash of turnovers opened the door for a big St. Louis comeback.

Limited to one of four free throws and guilty of seven turnovers in a five minute span, a 69-50 KCKCC lead was trimmed to 70-66 and it took a desperation 3-pointer by backup guard Roberto Hernandez as the clock was about to expire with 1:32 left to stem the Archers’ comeback. Still, St. Louis got to within four at 74-70 before two Hernandez free throws sealed the win with 32 seconds left.

Lansing freshman Joe Lendway led KCKCC with 16 points on seven of nine shots along with five rebounds while frosh Braseson Sester and Austin Hall each scored 13 points and had five rebounds off the bench, which provided 37 points. Ray Ridley had four assists to go along with his 10 points for KCKCC, which shot a torrid 62.5 percent the first half. However, the Blue Devils were guilty of 21 turnovers, 14 in the second half.

Six Blue Devils scored eight or more points in the 76-73 overtime win over On Point highlighted by an 11 point, 10 rebound double double by freshman Tevin Downing. Lendway again led with a career high 19 points while Ridley added 11, C.J. Vallejo 10, Clay Young 9 and Hall 8. Vallejo also had eight rebounds and five assists, four in overtime as Downing had a 3-pointer, Lendway a layup and Young two key field goals including a 3-pointer.

A triple double by sophomore guard Cassidy Harbert, the second of her career, highlighted KCKCC’s 96-57 win over Penn Valley. Harbert had 14 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists while freshman Cheyenne North had a big double double with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Cierra Gaines led the scoring with 23 while Janai Mitchell added 12 points and Sierra Roberts 11 and seven rebounds. Gaines also had six steals and Erin Anderson five as KCKCC forced 26 turnovers. Eleven Blue Devils scored and collected rebounds as KCKCC had a 66-30 rebound superiority.

The Blue Devils had 13 score and grab rebounds in the 93-41 win over Ellsworth. North had 14 points and Mitchell, Harbert and Gaines 13 each in the win. Leading 40-28 at the half, KCKCC outscored the Panthers 53-13 in the second half.
Alan Hoskins is the sports information director for KCKCC.