by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
For the record, Kansas City Kansas Community College’s young volleyball team came away with a 2-2 split in the star-studded 22-team “Battle of the Dells” tournament in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Friday and Saturday.
For head coach Mary Bruno, however, it was an outstanding start for the fledgling Lady Blue Devils, who open their home season Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Labette.
Both Wisconsin Dells losses were to ranked teams – No. 8 Sauk Valley of Dixon, Ill., 3-2 and No. 3 Owens Community College of Toledo, Ohio, 3-0. The wins were over Carl Sandburg of Galesburg, Ill., 3-2 and South Suburban of South Holland, Ill., 3-0.
“I was very impressed with the way we started the season and anxious to see how we can build from competing in one of the most competitive early season tournaments in the country,” said Bruno, who used seven freshmen and three sophomores in the tourney.
Playing in their opening match, the Blue Devils spotted Sauk Valley a 25-15, 25-21 lead Friday before winning the next two sets 25-17, 25-22. Sauk then took the decisive fifth set 15-12.
“We may have had a few first-game jitters,” Bruno said.
KCKCC jumped in front of Carl Sandburg 25-15, 25-16 but needed a decisive 15-7 fifth game win after dropping 25-20, 25-22 decisions.
The Blue Devils swept South Suburban 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 in Saturday’s first match before falling to No. 3 Owens 25-21, 25-18, 25-20.
“Owens is ranked No. 3 in Division II for a reason; they’re very well balanced,” Bruno said. “We competed very well against them and if we can learn as a group to eliminate errors instead of just competing we can win.”
Led by 6-0 freshman middle blocker Randi Johnson of Lee’s Summit and 5-10 sophomore co-captain Katie Heeter of Shawnee Mission South on the outside, the Blue Devils got outstanding front-line play. Johnson had 48 kills, a 3.0 per set average and a hitting percentage of .438 which is seventh nationally while Heeter averaged 2.94 kills per set. In addition, sophomore Alissia Nevarez of Turner and freshman Brittney Winter of Belton averaged two kills per set.
Defensively, freshman Libero Kelli Sleefe of Andover Central averaged more than five digs per set.
“Offensively, we were very balanced with a setter rotation of sophomore Erin Reilly of Belton and freshmen Kelsey Rankin of Omaha and Paige Dresslaer of Diamond, Mo.,” Bruno said.