by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Led by three Academic All-Americans, the 2018-2019 Kansas City Kansas Community College team is an NJCAA All-American Academic team.
It’s the fourth straight year the Blue Devils have been designated at Academic All-American team.
“One of my proudest accomplishments,” coach Mary Bruno-Ballou said. “The ability of our student-athletes to prioritize their academics and be successful academically is something I value very highly.”
Allayah Stillwell, a freshman middle-blocker who graduated from Summit Christian in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, earned first-team Academic All-American honors with a 4.0 grade point average.
Sophomore Libero Kelli Sleefe of Andover Central earned second-team honors with a 3.83 GPA,
Freshman setter Gracie Golay of Wichita’s Trinity Academy is a third-team selection with a 3.68 GPA.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“This past season, 13 of our 15 athletes had a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher for the 2018 fall and 2019 spring semesters,” Bruno-Ballou said.
Even more telling is what happens next.
“About 50 percent of our athletes continue to play at four-year programs, and 50 percent choose to prioritize their academics at the next level,” she said.
Two of this year’s four sophomores will continue their volleyball careers. Middle blocker Randi Johnson of Lee’s Summit at NCAA Division II Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota; and setter Kelsey Rankin of Omaha at Mid-America Nazarene University, an NAIA member in Olathe.
The other two are bypassing more volleyball to pursue lifetime careers. Sleefe is enrolled in the dental hygiene program at UMKC; setter Paige Dresslaer of Diamond, Missouri, is pursuing a career in nursing at Pittsburg State.
And that trend will continue as neither of the two freshmen Academic All-Americans plan to play collegiate volleyball after the 2019 fall season. Stillwell will enroll in the University of Kansas pre-med program in January; Golay will enter the nursing program at KCKCC.
“I’m thrilled with the academic success of our team,” Bruno-Ballou said. “The demands of being college athletes goes far beyond games and practices. Not only are some of our athletes fulltime students and fulltime athletes, they also work. So to be able to juggle all the demands and be successful is a real tribute to their hard work and efforts.”
Academic assistance is also provided by Bruno-Ballou and assistant coach Allyssa Lutgen.
“We provide assistance to athletes who might need a little extra help or need better study habits or help with time management but many are successful on their own,” Bruno-Ballou said.