JUBILANT BLUE DEVILS EARN BERTH IN NATIONAL VOLLEYBALL TOURNEY
Earning a first-time ever berth in the national volleyball tournament is great but doing it a second time is even better.
"It is absolutely. To do it in front of our home crowd with all the emotion of fighting back from losing the first set, I couldn't be happier," said an elated Kansas City Kansas Community College Coach Mary Bruno after her Blue Devils had rallied for a 3-1 win over Fort Scott in front of a couple hundred home fans Saturday.
The win in the District N championship game sends the Lady Blue Devils to the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., Nov. 27-29. It's the second trip to the national tournament for Bruno, who led KCKCC to its first ever national tourney berth two years ago in just her second year as head coach.
If the Blue Devils needed a wakeup call, they got it in a hurry as Fort Scott jumped in front 18-13 in the first set. KCKCC got back to 18-18 on three kills by Jasel Gonzalez but then fell back 21-18 in a subsequent 25-23 setback.
"It's funny; that was the exact score Fort Scott beat us the first time and we won the next three so we knew we could come back," said co-captain Blair Russell.
"We just wanted to set it up to come from behind to keep it exciting for the crowd," laughedLily Thornberg, also a co-captain. "Seriously, we knew they would come out fired up and we need to keep cool."
And stay cool they did. After pulling even with a 25-19 win in the second set, the Blue Devils jumped in front 9-2 in a 25-15 win in the third set and led 9-3 in the fourth on the way to a 25-19 clinching win that set off a jubilant dogpile on the court and hugs and smiles everywhere.
"I am so proud of these girls; they've worked so hard and deserve it so much," said Bruno. "We had to play without our No. 1 middle blocker (injured Kailee Dudley) but everyone stepped up and played well. Allyssa Lutgen, a freshman, did a great job filling it at middle blocker. We came out a little lethargic but then everyone stepped up. It was so sweet."
Sidelined with a sprained ankle, Dudley is expected to be back to close strength for the national tournament. "I'll be ready," vowed Dudley.
To reach Saturday's title game, the Blue Devils polished off Labette 25-17, 25-254, 25-18 while Fort Scott eliminated Hesston 25-13, 25-14, 25-15.
PHOTO IDENT (nationally bound)
Jubilant KCKCC volleyball team members headed for the national tournament include (front row, from left) Lily Cullers, Kimberly Martinez, Andrea Aparicio, Lily Thornberg, Blair Russell and Lexi Nick; (second row) coaches Dee Bruno and Cory Roberts, Kailee Dudley, Peyton Pender, Junelie Irizarry, Jasel Gonzalez, Allyssa Lutgen, Carlyn Walsh,Janelle Fowler, Cecilia Augustine, head coach Mary Bruno and assistants Catherine Bruno and Paloma Juarez. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)