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."