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2019 Volleyball News

  • Blair Russell first Blue Devil All-American Volleyball First Team
    November 13, 2019
    Sometimes – well, actually, most of the time – moms and dads know best. Just ask Blair Russell. An outstanding three-sport athlete at Maryville, Kan., Russell tore the labrum in her right shoulder prior to her first collegiate volleyball season at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Tex. “I was pretty disappointed and thinking about not playing anymore but my mom and dad (Tacy and Mike Russell) kept pushing me,” remembers Russell. All the way to becoming a first team All-American and induction into the Kansas City Kansas Community College Athletic Hall of Fame Friday, Nov. 15. “My sister played at KCKCC and so we knew the Bruno’s, Mary and her mother, Dee,” says Russell, who had been recruited by KCKCC out of high school. “I think my mother reached out to them and when I was officially released from my letter of intent from Tyler, I came for a visit and Mary told me I had a spot if I wanted it. I was really excited I was going to try again. Coach Bruno refueled my fire for volleyball.” As for the rest of the story, Russell helped the Blue Devils finish 21-11 her first season in 2013 and then reached the pinnacle of NJCAA DII volleyball in 2014 – KCKCC’s first ever first team All-American, Academic All-American, Jayhawk Conference Most Valuable Player and KCKCC Female Athlete of the Year. She was also NJCAA National Player of the Week, All-Jayhawk Conference and All-District first team, two-time Jayhawk Player of the Week and received an NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award. Nationally, Russell finished fifth in kills (516) and eighth in kills per game (3.94). Her biggest achievement, however, was leading the Blue Devils to the NJCAA DII national tournament for the first and only time where the Blue Devils fell to eventual champion Glendale (Ariz,) in the first round but bounced back to win the consolation bracket with three straight wins. “Definitely my favorite memory,” says Russell. “We were definitely the underdog but after losing to the national champion, we won every game after than that. We had a meeting that night after losing and Mary asked us what happens next, do we roll over and go home or fight back? We won the last game of the season and not many teams can say that.” Named to the All-Tournament team, the Blue Devils finished ninth in the tournament and No. 7 in the national poll. “A tremendous athlete, hard-working, dedicated and very team centric,” says KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno-Ballou. “Very coachable, always wanting to learn more. You could challenge her and she would respond. During her first year recovering from injury, she was only a three-rotation athlete playing only the front row. But during the spring, she worked so very hard she transitioned into a six-rotation player playing both the front and back row and was a force to be reckoned with.” “We had a group of talented girls who had the same goal and took the spring training very seriously,” says Russell. “We worked the whole semester focusing on volleyball and pushing each other.“ The result was an 8-1 Jayhawk Conference record and 32-10 overall mark. Russell’s teammate, Lily Thornburg, was named to the All-American second team and they were joined by Kailee Dudley and Andrea Aparicio on the all-conference first team. Jasdel Gonzalez was a second team selection and Junelle Irizary honorable mention. “I changed from being an athlete to volleyball specific because of all the technical skills I had to work on,” says Russell. “I could not just rely on my athleticism. The training broke down all the fundamental skills so everything became automatic. I had time to focus on strategy shots and the game as a whole. It definitely helped me in going to a four-year university” Earning an Associate’s degree at KCKCC with a major in Journalism and minor in Convergent Media, Russell was a mid-term graduate in 2014 and then transferred to Missouri Western in St. Joseph in January of 2015 where she an MIAA Scholar Athlete and All-MIAA honorable mention. She also worked on the college’s newspaper and yearbook staff. She graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Convergent Media, a degree which combines photography, videography, design and journalism.. Russell returned to KCKCC as an assistant coach in 2017-18. “I loved coaching, absolutely loved it,” says Russell. “I really enjoyed teaching young players how to play and miss it.” “Blair helped us in so many ways, especially social media,” says Bruno-Ballou. “She was the forerunner in everything we’ve done in keeping what she learned in earning her degree. She made great contributions in her two years as an athlete and one year in coaching with us.” Russell passed on a chance to play at KCKCC after high school. “My sister, Riley, had played at KCKCC so I didn’t want to play here just because she did; I wanted to do my own thing,” said Russell. “It’s ironic,” says Bruno-Ballou. “If not for her injury we would not have had the team and record we did.” Russell might be still coaching were it not for her lifetime dream of photography. “I started taking photos when I was nine years old and wrote a report on photography my freshman year in high school,” says Russell, now the owner of Blair Jennifer Photography in Lawrence specializing in weddings, engagements, family photos and associated areas. She also continues playing volleyball every chance she gets – women’s and co-ed leagues and sand volleyball. The induction of Russell and long-time KCKCC Athletic Trainer Rodney Christensen will come between the women’s and men’s basketball games in the opening round of the Keith Lindsey Classic Friday, Nov. 15. Tipoff of the women’s game is 6 p.m.
  • KCKCC wins 3 of 4 in Illinois
    October 22, 2019
    The best non-ranked NCJAA DII volleyball team in the nation? It’s a claim Kansas City Kansas Community College can easily make after closing out non-conference volleyball play in the rugged Lincoln Land Invitational Tournament in Springfield, Ill. Friday and Saturday. Losing only to No. 1 ranked Parkland, the Blue Devils (17-12) knocked off two nationally ranked teams while taking three of four matches in the two-day event. Off the 12 losses this season, only one has come to an unranked team. Four have come at the hands of No. 1 Parkland and No. 2 Coffeyville (two each). Four others have come at the hands of Jayhawk rivals – No. 4 Cowley, No. 6 Fort Scott, No. 7 Johnson County and No. 13 Cowley College. No. 10 Highland still awaits, the Blue Devils final road test Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The highlight win came in the Blue Devils’ final match Saturday, a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Moraine Valley, a Top 10 ranked team. KCKCC dropped the first two sets 25-23 and 25-20 before rallying for 25-20, 25-18 and 15-12 wins. The win capped a big day as the Blue Devils also rallied past the host school, nationally ranked Lincoln Land. After dropping a 25-16 first set, KCKCC won the next three 25-20, 25-17, 22-16. The Blue Devils opened the tourney Friday with a 3-0 sweep of Waubonsee, winning handily 25-19, 25-12, 25-22, before bowing to No. 1 Parkland 25-14, 25-15, 25-16. “Parkland is the best team we’ve seen all year,” said KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno-Ballou. Sophomore Tara Mattingly led KCKCC offensively with 45 kills including at least 10 in all four matches. “Our back row defense and our blockers were pretty fantastic all weekend and Gracie Golay did a great job directing the offense – an all-around team effort,” said Bruno-Ballou. Sophomores Amilex Lopez, Natalia Vega Aponte and Mattingly made up the Blue Devil back line while sophomores Allayah Stillwell and Lauren Leavendusky and freshman Michelle Dvorak were the blocking leaders. “A good weekend against very tough competition,” said Bruno-Ballou. “I’m really proud of this team. We play in the toughest conference in the country and compete with them on a regular basis. Now we have two matches left to gear up for the regional tournament.” KCKCC will close out Jayhawk Conference play at Highland Wednesday and then host Hesston at Sophomore Day Wednesday, Oct. 30.
  • Blue Devils win 3 of 4 in KCKCC Volleyball Tournament
    September 24, 2019
    Kansas City Kansas Community College was not the most grateful of hosts Friday and Saturday, winning three of four matches in the annual KCKCC Invitational Volleyball Tournament. The Lady Blue Devils lost only one set in defeating Waubonsee 3-1, Des Moines Area CC 3-0 and Metropolitan 3-0. The only loss came 3-0 at the hands of Coffeyville, the No. 2 ranked team in the NJCAA Division II national poll and defending national champion. The wins boosted the Blue Devils’ record to 10-7 heading back into Jayhawk Conference action at Neosho County in Chanute Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Next home game comes Oct. 2 against Cowley County. “We had a great week of volleyball, 4-1 with a conference win,” said KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno-Ballou. “An excellent all-around team effort with everyone having an opportunity to contribute. Our defense was very solid this week and gave our hitters and opportunity for kills. But with the strength of our conference, there’s no letup. Our game at Neosho Wednesday is crucial in our goal of reaching the playoffs.” A trio of sophomores led the way for the Blue Devils. Tara Mattingly, an outside hitter from Wichita Northwest, had 40 kills and 29 digs in the games vs. Waubonsee, Coffeyville and Metropolitan (statistics not available for DMACC game). Setter Gracie Golay of Wichita Trinity Academy had 73 assists and Natalie Vega Aponte 28 digs in those three game. “Tara had a fantastic weekend and Gracie Golay has been wonderfully consistent throughout the year running a consistent offense,” said Bruno-Ballou. The Blue Devils jumped in front of Waubonsee 25-15 in KCKCC’s opener Friday only to drop the second set 29-27 before bouncing back with 25-13 and 25-23 wins. Mattingly had 15 kills and 12 digs and DeSoto freshman Cassidy Crist 14 kills to lead the way offensively while Aponte and freshman Nicole Almestica led defensively with a dozen digs each. KCKCC gave unbeaten Coffeyville a scare in Friday’s second match, dropping 25-21. 25-23 decisions before losing the final 25-15. The win stretched the Red Ravens winning streak to 20 in a row. Mattingly had 11 kills and 8 digs, Velez 11 assists and Golay 10 and Apointe 10 digs for KCKCC. Big finishes helped the Blue Devils turn back Des Moines Area 25-18, 25-22, 25-20 in Saturday’s opener before closing out with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 sweep of Metropolitan. Golay had all 35 KCKCC assists against Metro while Mattingly had 14 kills and 9 digs, Apointe 14 digs and Almestica 13 digs.
  • Blue Devils Stun two Nationally Ranked Teams in VB Opener
    August 28, 2019
    Kansas City Kansas Community College got the 2019 volleyball season off to a spectacular start, knocking off two nationally ranked Top 20 teams including No. 4 Kirkwood in the McHenry Tournament in Sugar Grove, Ill. The unranked Blue Devils also defeated No. 17 Illinois Central and unranked Joliet in their best opening weekend in recent years. Their lone loss came at the hands of No. 2 Parkland, last year’s national runnerup and 2016 NJCAA Division II national champion. “Thrilled with the performance, energy and effort over the weekend,” said KCKCC Coach Mary Bruno-Ballou. “Our approach and dedication was excellent. We went there to play the best and we beat some of the best.” KCKCC opened with a 25-11, 25-16, 25-19 win over Joliet before falling to Parkland 25-17, 25-12, 25-20 on Friday. On Saturday, the Blue Devils rebounded to upset Kirkwood 25-20, 25-20, 18-25, 25-21 and Illinois Central 25-17, 13-25, 25-22, 25-17. The Blue Devils are right back in action Monday, taking on Northeastern Oklahoma in Miami at 6 p.m. However, KCKCC’s scheduled home opener Ottawa JV Wednesday has been cancelled because of injuries to Ottawa players. The Blue Devils home opener will now come Sept. 11 against Johnson County. Sophomores Tara Mattingly, Gracie Golay and Natalia Vega Aponte and freshmen Cassidy Crist and Michelle Dvorak led the way. An outside hitter from Wichita Northwest, Mattingly had 53 kills in 119 attempts while Crist, an outside hitter from DeSoto, had 41 kills in just 87 attempts. In the 3-1 upset of No. 4 Kirkland, Mattingly had 21 kills in 45 attempts and 15 digs while Crist had 15 kills in 35 attempts. A middle blocker from Park Hill South, Dvorak’s 11 kills led against Parkland. Golay, a setter from Wichita’s Trinity Academy, was the offensive catalyst with a whopping 130 assists in four games while Aponte led defensively with 53 digs including at least a dozen in each of the four contests. “On Saturday, we switched to a 5-1 offense and it made all the difference,” said Bruno-Ballou. After recording 36 of KCKCC’s 61 assists on Friday, Golay had 44 of the Blue Devils’ 48 assists in the win over Kirkwood and 50 of 53 in the upset of No. 17 Illinois Central on Saturday. The only Jayhawk Conference team to open against three nationally ranked foes, depth was a key factor as the Blue Devils used 13 players on Saturday. “A great team effort,” noted Bruno-Ballou. “We’re very well balanced at every position and it certainly paid off.”