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.