Monday, August 20, 2012

Five returning starters give high hopes to KCKCC volleyball team in 2012


The good news is that Kansas City Kansas Community College returns five starters from a team that came within one win of a berth in the NJCAA national volleyball tournament last year.

The bad news is the Lady Blue Devils play in arguably the toughest Division II conference in the nation. The defending national champion, Cowley County, is ranked No. 1 in this fall’s Preseason Top 20 and arch-rival Johnson County No. 8.

“I think we’re in a pretty good place because we’re going in under the radar,” says head coach Mary Bruno. So do the pollsters who have pegged KCKCC as one of five “other teams to watch” in the Preseason Top 20 and third in the district behind Cowley and JCCC.

Bruno is coming off an outstanding rookie season. Named KCKCC’s Coach of the Year, her Blue Devils were 24-14 and third in the conference before losing to JCCC in the regional finals.

Not one to back away from tough competition, the Blue Devils are scheduled for tournaments in West Burlington and Council Bluffs in Iowa, New Port Richey, Fla., and Highland where they’ll be facing such national powers as parkland, Pasco-Hernando and Longview.

 “Playing good competition make you better; we play in tough tournaments early because we need it to great ready for the conference,” says Bruno.

The Blue Devils open the season on the road with tournaments in West Burlington, Iowa, Aug. 24-25 and Highland Sept. 7-8 sandwiched around Jayhawk matches at Hesston Aug. 29 and Highland Sept. 5 before the home opener against Fort Scott Sept. 12.

Lisa Angello, a 5-10 outside hitter from Lansing who was all-conference and all-region and the National Community College Player of the Week as a freshman, heads the Blue Devil returnees.

“Very competitive, she’s been playing against strong competition outside college,” says Bruno.

She’ll again be joined by 5-10 Sarah Mertens of Lincoln, Neb., who Bruno feels will give the Blue Devils an outstanding one-two punch on the outside.

The other returning starters are 5-7 setter Jennie Kinsella of St. James Academy, 6-3 right side Chelsea Sheldon-Medina of Waukesha, Wis., and 5-6 Leah Oehm of Maryville, Kan., a defensive specialist and libero., Tara Van Beek, a 6-1 middle hitter from Paw Paw, Ill., who redshirted last year, will start in the middle.

“As a redshirt, we call her super soph who has really played well,” says Bruno.

While the veterans have the inside track on starting positions, Bruno expects a lot of help from newcomers.

Courtney Gunnels, a 5-9 sophomore from Piper who transferred from Ottawa, is being counted on at both the outside and defensive specialist positions; 5-9 freshman Kristin Patton of Wellsville is challenging for the starting setter’s job; 5-6 Rachel Replogle of Omaha is vying for the starting libero job; and 6-4 frosh Kenya Alexander of Wyandotte and 6-0 soph Amber Fraser of Des Moines provide sizeable depth as middle hitters.

“It’s not a very deep team but one with goodsize, great athletes and competitiveness that has gotten so much better since it walked in the front door that it’s like night and day,” says Bruno. “They’ve bought into the system but most importantly, they have a good time and enjoy the sport which can get lost in some places. They’ve been successful and have fun doing it.”

Bruno is being assisted by Ali Ward, who played three years at Washburn and also served as a student assistant coach.

“She has a wealth of volleyball knowledge and is a great asset to the staff,” says Bruno, who is also being aided by volunteer assistant Dee Bruno.

Kansas City Kansas Community College
2012 Volleyball Schedule
Aug. 24-25 – Southeast Iowa  Tournament (West Burlington)
Aug. 29 – Hesston+, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 – Highland*, Away, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 – Highland Tournament, TBA.
Sept. 12 – FORT SCOTT*, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 14-15 – PHCC Tournament (New Port Richey, Fla.)
Sept. 22 – Ottawa JV, Away, 3 and 5 p.m.
Sept. 26 – Allen County*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 – S.E. Nebraska, Away, 6 p.m.
Sept. 29 – WENTWORTH JV/AVILA JV Triangular, Home, 2 and 6 p.m.
Oct. 3 – JOHNSON COUNTY*, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5-6 – Iowa Western Tournament (Council Bluffs), TBA.
Oct. 8 – NEOSHO COUNTY*, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 10 – Independence*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 – S.E. NEBRASKA, Home, 6 p.m.
Oct. 17 – Cowley County*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 – BUTLER COUNTY*, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 22 – Coffeyville*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 – LABETTE*, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 30 – Longview, Away, 6 p.m.
Nov. 3 – Region VI Playoffs, TBA.
·    Jayhawk Conference match
+    Region VI match.   

PHOTO: Members of the 2012 KCKCC volleyball team include (front row, from left) Jade Young, Kristin Patton, Sarah Mertens, Lisa Angello, Courtney Gunnells, Jennie Kinsella and manager Brittany Dampler; (second row) head coach Mary Bruno, manager Cory Roberts, Amber Fraser, Jessica Thompson, Leah Oehm, Kenya Alexander, Rachel Replogle, Chelsea Sheldon-Medina, Tara Van Beek and assistant coaches Ali Ward and Dee Bruno. (Photo by Mark Greathouse)