by Alan Hoskins
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s nationally tournament-bound Lady Blue Devils dominated the 2014 All-Jayhawk Conference volleyball team like no team in recent years, placing four players on the first team and sweeping most of the individual honors.
Outside hitter Blair Russell was named the 2014 the Most Valuable Player, Andrea Aparicio the Libero of the Year, Lily Thornberg Co-Setter of the Year and Mary Bruno Co-Coach of the Year.
Middle blocker Kailee Dudley joined Russell, Aparicio and Thornberg on the first team while outside hitter Jasdel Gonzalez was named to the second team and middle blocker Junelie Irizarry earned honorable mention. All are sophomores.
Russell, Thornberg, Aparicio and Dudley were also named to the seven-member All-District N Team while Gonzalez and Irizarry were named to the second team.
“Four players on the first team is the most we’ve ever and the six to receive post-season honors the most ever and reflects the hard work they’ve put in,” said KCKCC coach Mary Bruno. “The three who received the individual honors (Russell, Thornberg and Aparicio) spent the spring in the gym making changes that we had asked them to make. The awards may have come this fall but it was the spring season that helped them develop into the players they are today.”
Ranked No. 8 in the final Division II poll, KCKCC will go into the NJCAA national tournament seeded No. 7. The Blue Devils will open national tournament play against No. 10 seeded Glendale, Ariz., in Phoenix Thursday, Nov. 20, at 11 a.m.
Bruno and Riann Mullis of Cowley were named co-coaches of the year on the All-Jayhawk team. Other selections on the 10-member All-Jayhawk team included Julia Stringer and Kourtney Blaufuss of Fort Scott, Brianna Pontious of Johnson County, Lana DaSilva of Cowley, Polette Medina of Coffeyville and Halley Scott of Allen County.
A graduate of Marysville High School where she was all-state in volleyball, all-state honorable mention in basketball and a four-year qualifier in the Kansas state track and field meet, Russell finished fifth in the nation in kills (516) and eighth in average (3.94).
Thornberg, a Junction City standout, was fifth in the nation in assists per set with 10.74 per game; Dudley, a Lawrence Free State grad who transferred from Butler in July, finished 21st in blocks (1.24 per set) and 30th in hitting percentage (.317); and Aparicio was 21st in digs per set (5.54) and 22nd in total digs (693).
Alan Hoskins is the sports information director for KCKCC.