KCKCC coach humbled by 2014 WCBA awards ceremony

A photo with Connecticut coach legend Geno Auriemma was one of the highlights of KCKCC’s Valerie Stambersky during her trip to the women’s Final Four where she was one of three nominees for community college Coach of the Year – and Auriemma’s U-Conn team won a record ninth national championship. (KCKCC photo by Damian Stambersky)

by Alan Hoskins

It was a day Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s basketball coach Valerie Stambersky will never forget.

A photo with Connecticut Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma. Sharing the spotlight with Notre Dame Coach of the Year Muffet McGraw. Recognition as one of three community college Coach of the Year nominees.

“It’s such a huge, huge honor and so humbling. I really didn’t feel I deserved to be in the same room with some of the people and what they had done,” said Stambersky of the 30th annual convention of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) held Monday in the Broadway Ballroom of the Omni Nashville Hotel, site of the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Trenia Tillis Jones, who took Tyler Junior College from an 11-19 record in 2013 to a 30-6 season, national tournament appearance and No. 11 national ranking in 2014, was named Russell Athletic-WBCA Community College Coach of the Year award over Stambersky and Ned Mircetic of Ventura College, the Coach of the Year in 2009.

In her 15th year at KCKCC, Stambersky took the Lady Blue Devils from a 10-21 record in 2013 to a 24-8 mark in 2014 with six of the eight losses coming to teams ranked in the Top Five in Division II.

“If I had won, it would not have been what I did but a tribute to my staff and the players for what they did throughout the season,” Stambersky said.

This year’s award was especially special because it is the Pat Summit Award named in honor of the winningest basketball coach (men’s or women’s) in NCAA Division I history with 1,098 career victories. Summit stepped down as head coach in April 2012 after leading Tennessee to eight NCAA Division I national championships. She was named Division I national coach of the year three times.

Stambersky and all other nominees in six coaching levels (NCAA Division I, II and II, NAIA, community college and high school) were introduced via video to a crowd of more than 400 at the awards ceremony. Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw repeated as NCAA Division I Coach of the Year after leading the Irish to an unbeaten season until losing to U-Conn and Auriemma in the championship game Tuesday night.

Both McGraw and Auriemma were interviewed at a reception prior to the awards ceremony Monday night.

In addition to mingling with many of the top women’s coaches in the nation at the reception, Stambersky was able to reunite with her coach at Ferris State University, Tracy Dorrow, now head coach at Valparaiso, and a former player, Brittany Graham, current assistant coach at Berry College.

Stambersky was accompanied by her husband, KCKCC assistant baseball coach Damian Stambersky, and their two children, Taylor and Tyler.

Looking back, Stambersky said it was the highlight of her coaching career – and motivation for next season. “You get a taste of what it’s like and you want to be in that situation of winning next year,” she said.

Sporting KC defender Opara to undergo surgery for season-ending injury

Ike Opara

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara will undergo surgery on April 16 to repair a chondral defect in his right ankle and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2014 season, the club announced on Thursday.

Opara suffered the serious season-ending injury in the 57th minute of Sporting Kansas City’s 3-2 victory at Colorado on March 29 in a collision with Rapids defender Jared Watts.

Opara has made 60 MLS appearances (including postseason) in five professional seasons since being selected No. 3 overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.

Sporting Kansas City acquired Opara prior to the 2013 season and the 25-year-old centerback has played 30 games in all competition for the club over the last two years.

Opara has been a key contributor for teams that have won the NCAA National Championship (Wake Forest, 2007), Supporters’ Shield (San Jose, 2012) and MLS Cup (Sporting Kansas City, 2013).

He represented the United States at the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and was most recently a member of the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team.

Wednesday’s surgery will be performed under the care of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matthew Kneidel.

Blue Devils collect 16 hits in 21st win of season

by Alan Hoskins

Pounding out 16 hits in an 11-4 win over Saint Mary’s JV Tuesday, Kansas City Kansas Community College’s baseball focus immediately swung back to Jayhawk Conference play.

At home to Labette for a 1 p.m. doubleheader today, the Blue Devils face a return meeting with Labette in Parsons Saturday.

Six Blue Devils had two hits each as the Blue Devils improved to 21-17.

Garret McKinzie doubled twice, Tyler Raymond doubled and singled and Lucas Norton, Mitch Glessner, Sam Baxter and Alex Thrower had two singles each.

KCKCC jumped in front early, scoring twice in the first on a single by Norton, double by Raymond, Christian Arnold’s sacrifice fly and Glessner’s RBI single and added single runs in the second and third.

Zane Mapes’ squeeze bunt scored Thrower in the second; Glessner drove in his second run after a McKinzie double in the third.

McKinzie and Arnold had back-to-back doubles in a 2-run fifth; two more scored on singles by Norton and Raymond and an error in the sixth; and the final three crossed in the seventh on singles by Baxter , Hunter Walsh, Tanner Foerschler, hit batsman and an error.

Three Blue Devil hurlers combined on a 5-hitter in the 9-inning contest.

Starter Spencer Nielsen gave up just one hit and no earned runs in four innings; Derek Watkins retired six of the first seven eight hitters he faced before St. Mary broke through for three runs and three hits in the seventh; and Jonathan May finished up, allowing one hit and striking out two in 2.2 innings.