by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Depth and talent have made for some difficult decision making for Mary Bruno-Ballou in her eighth season as head volleyball coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Heading into the home opener against Northeastern Oklahoma at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, there’s competition for playing time at every position.
“A very balanced group of athletes; very athletic and very dynamic,” Bruno-Ballou said. “It’s also a very competitive group, constantly pushing each other to a higher level.”
Just five sophomores return from last season and just four who played. Yvette Tamez, a 6-foot right side outside hitter from Donna, Texas, had to be redshirted after undergoing knee surgery.
Randi Johnson, a 6-1 middle blocker from Lee’s Summit, heads the returnees after earning first team All-Region VI and second team All-Jayhawk Conference honors as a freshman. She’s joined by 5-8 libero Kelli Sleefe of Andover Central, and two returning setters, 5-10 Kelsey Rankin of Omaha and 5-9 Paige Dresslaer of Diamond, Mo.
A position-by-position look at the 2018 Lady Blue Devil squad with remarks by Bruno-Ballou:
Setter – Returnees Rankin and Dresslaer are joined by 5-9 freshman Gracie Golay of Wichita Trinity Academy in one of deepest positions in recent years. “A more rounded group than previously. All three have the ability for playing time.”
Middle blocker – Randi Johnson is joined by three freshmen, 6-1 Allayah Stillwell of Lee’s Summit Christian Academy; 5-11 Shenice Canady of Sumner Academy; and Malaysia StClair of Beaumont, Texas. “Not super tall but as a group, very athletic and very promising.”
Outside hitter – An all-freshman position – 5-9 Tara Mattingly of Wichita Northwest, 5-11 Katelyn Mask of Lawrence and 5-4 Amilex Lopez Ayala, an outstanding jumper from Puerto Rico. “All three have comparable skill levels and the potential to be six rotation players.”
Right side outside hitter – 5-8 Madison Wright of Turner joins redshirt Yvette Tamez in bids for playing time. “Both have very heavy hitting arms.”
Defensive specialist – The returning starting libero, Kelli Sleefe is challenged by 5-4 Natalia Vega Aponte of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “Both have great ball control skills and will see considerable playing time,”
As usual, the Blue Devils will play a brutal schedule including five tournaments, each of which will have at least three or four ranked teams. However, the Jayhawk slate is much more favorable than 2017, when the Blue Devils were on the road for a solid month. This year, five of KCKCC’s nine conference contests are at home. Independence is no longer on the schedule after moving up to Division I; replaced by Cloud County which dropped from Division I.
However, Coffeyville is coming off a national championship and Cowley and Johnson County are perennial powers.
“Our conference just gets better each year,” Bruno-Ballou said. Bruno-Ballou is again being assisted by her mother, Dee Bruno, who has coached at various levels for 22 years including the last 11 at KCKCC.
Kansas City Kansas Community College
2018 VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 22 NORTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA, Home 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 PARK UNIVERSITY JV, Home TBA
Aug. 27 AVILA UNIVERSITY JV, Home 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 CLOUD COUNTY*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 SEC Tournament, West Burlington, Iowa 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Sept. 1 SEC Tournament, West Burlington, Iowa 8 & 10 a.m.
Sept. 4 COFFEYVILLE*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 Pasco-Hernandez Tournament, New Port Richey, FL. 11 a.m. & 5 p.m.
Sept. 8 Pasco-Hernandez Tournament, New Port Richey, FL 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Sept 12 NEOSHO COUNTY*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 Johnson County*, Away 6 p.m.
Sept. 19 NEOSHO COUNTY*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 KCKCC TOURNAMENT, Home 12 & 4 p.m.
Sept. 22 KCKCC TOURNAMENT, Home 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Sept. 26 Cowley College*, Away 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 LABETTE*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Central Tournament, Columbus, NEB. 5 & 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 Central Tournament, Columbus, NEB. 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Oct. 10 FORT SCOTT*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 HIGHLAND*, Home 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Lincoln Land Tournament, Springfield, Ill. 5 & 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 Lincoln Land Tournament, Springfield, Ill. 9:30 & 11:30 a.m.
Oct. 24 Hesston+, Away 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 30-31 Region VI Semifinals TBA
Oct. 2-3 Region VI Playoffs TBA
Nov. 21-23 NJCAA National Tournament, Charleston, W. VA.
*Jayhawk Conference + Region VI