KCKCC WINS CONSOLATION TITLE IN NATIONAL VOLLEYBALL TOURNEY
Blue Devils win 3 of 4matches with only loss to championship finalist Glendale
If the Kansas City Kansas Community College team couldn't bring home the NJCAA Division II volleyball championship, the Lady Blue Devils did the next best thing.
Knocked out of the championship round by a 3-0 opening round loss to Glendale, Ariz., the Lady Blue Devils rebounded to win their next three matches to claim consolation championship honors.
"I'm very proud, especially the way we responded after the opening loss," said KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno after a 3-1 win over Iowa Central Saturday in the ninth place game in the tourney played in Phoenix, Ariz. "It was wonderful to see the kids rewarded for all their hard work. After getting upset in the first round, it feels great."
While coming into the national tourney seeded No. 10, Glendale followed its win over the No. 7 Blue Devils by shocking No. 2 Central Nebraska 3-2 in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Cowley College 3-2 in the semifinals to reach the championship game against No. 1 Parkland.
"Glendale was one of the best teams we've played all season and the best in the national," said Bruno, whose Blue Devils dropped the first set 25-12 and could never quite recover, losing the second set 25-21 and the third 25-22 after leading 21-19. "They came out blazing we were not quite ready for it. We had our chances but just weren't able to stop them."
KCKCC breezed past Genesee 25-12, 25-9, 25-11 in the consolation quarterfinals and then ousted Sauk Valley 25-19, 21-25, 26-24, 25-11 in the semifinals. "The win in the third set was very big; a very emotional battle that went back and forth," said Bruno
The Blue Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead over Iowa Central in the consolation finals, winning 25-23, 26-24 before Iowa Central took a 25-18 win. KCKCC then won the fourth set 26-24 behind the play of sophomore co-captain Blair Russell, who had 10 kills in the final game.
"Blair played well; Kailee Dudley came off a sprained ankle and played every match; and Jasdel Gonzalez played the best she's played all season," said Bruno. "And we had stalwart performances by Lilly Thornberg and Andrea Aparacio. All in all it was a great team effort."
Two years ago, the Blue Devils finished sixth in KCKCC's first national tournament ever and finished the year 32-8. This year they finished 32-10 playing arguably one of the nation's toughest schedules – eight of the 15 teams in the national tournament including three of the four teams in the championship semifinals along with five Division I powers including No. 1 Iowa Western. "I'm very happy," said Bruno. "It proved we could play with the very best."
There were smiles around as KCKCC won their final three games in the national volleyball tourney with a squad of (front row, from left) Lily Cullers, Lexi Nick, Andrea Aparicio, Janelle Fowler and Kimberly Martinez; (second row) assistant coaches Paloma Juarez and Cory Roberts, Carlyn Walsh, Kailee Dudley, Allyssa Lutgen, Blair Russell and Lily Thornberg; (third row) Peyton Pender, Cecelia Augustine, Jasdel Gonzalez, Junelie Irizarry, head coach Mary Bruno and assistant Dee Bruno.