Thursday, August 22, 2013

KCKCC volleyball squad, led by former Wyandotte Bulldog Kenya Alexander, looks to return to national tournament


KANSAS CITY, KAN. --- Mary Bruno got a taste of national tournament volleyball last year, guiding Kansas City Kansas Community College to a sixth place finish in the NJCAA Division II national championship in the Lady Blue Devils’ first appearance ever.

Now she wants more.

“I think it’s kind of a pride issue,” says the third-year coach. “We were not expected to go last year and surprised a lot of people. Now we have a bit of a target on our back that we’ve not had in the past. We don’t want this to be just a one-time thing.”

To get the Blue Devils ready for a possible return to the national, Bruno has lined up one of the tougher schedules in the nation.

“We need to play the best to be ready for the Jayhawk Conference, which if not the very best in the nation it’s very close to the top.”

Three teams which played in the national tournament last year will be faced in the opening Southeast Iowa tournament in West Burlington Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24 – Parkland (No. 3 preseason), Kirkwood (No. 8) and Iowa Central.

The home opener comes Wednesday, Aug. 28, when the Blue Devils entertain Hesston in a District N matchup at 6:30 p.m. followed by Highland Sept. 4.

Despite returning only one starter from last year’s 32-8 team, the Blue Devils enter the 2013 season ranked No. 14 in the NJCAA preseason poll – thanks in part, no doubt, to the return of that one returning starter.

A 6-4 middle blocker from Wyandotte, Kenya Alexander swept just about every possible honor last season – Jayhawk Conference Freshman of the Year, first team All-Jayhawk and All Region VI and honorable mention All-American.

“She’s got great athleticism, especially for someone 6-4,” says Bruno. “She’s going to be a great asset for us this year, both on the court and as a leader. Her future potential in the sport is unlimited.”

The only other returnee is Rachel Replogle, a 5-6 defensive specialist from Omaha, who is vying for roles of Libero and defensive specialist.

However, the cupboard is not quite as bare as it might look on paper. Jessica Thompson, a 6-3 outside hitter from South Jordan, Utah, and 5-11 right side hitter Jade Young from Plainfield, Ill., are back for a second season after redshirting last year.

“I call them our super sophs,” says Bruno. ”They’ve been in the program three years and we’ll be relying on them heavily for leadership.”

Alexander and Thompson will be joined on the front line by two members of a deep and talented freshman corps – 6-3 Darby Mussulman of Wichita Northwest and 5-11 Junelie Irizarry of Papillion, Neb.

“We’re very deep at middle blocker,” says Bruno.

There’s a heated three-way battle for the two starting outside hitter positions between 5-9 Carlyn Walsh of Wichita Northwest, 5-9 Blair Russell of Marysville, Kan.; and 5-8 Jasdel Gonzalez of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

“It’s really neck-and-neck,” says Bruno.   

Jade Young and freshman Natalie Sieck of Ankeny, Iowa, are locked in a battle for the starting right side position; 5-9 Lily Thornberg of Junction City has a slight edge over Celeste Lopez of El Paso at setter; and Replogle and freshmen Lily Cullers of Palmer, Alaska, and Andrea Aparicio of Dorado, Puerto Rico, are battling for the positions of Libero and defensive specialist.

“All are going to see court time,” says Bruno.

Paloma Juarez, who has eight years of coaching experience in the Kansas City area, has joined Dee Bruno on the KCKCC coaching staff.

“I’ve got a great support staff,” says Bruno. “Dee is in her sixth year on the staff here while Paloma has already helped considerably.”

Kansas City Kansas Community College  2013 VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE

Aug. 23 – SCC Tournament, West Burlington, Iowa      3 & 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 – SCC Tournament, West Burlington, Iowa         9 & 1 p.m.
Aug. 28 – HESSTON**, Home                  6:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 – HIGHLAND*, Home                  6:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 – Highland Tournament                 5 & 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – Highland Tournament                 9 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Sept. 11 – Fort Scott*, Away                       6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 – Johnson County*, Away                        5 p.m.
Sept. 25 – ALLEN COUNTY*, Home              6:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 – Benedictine JV, Away                      10 a.m.
Oct. 2 – Neosho County*, Away                   6:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 – Iowa Western Tournament, Council Bluffs               3 & 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 – Iowa Western Tournament, Council Bluffs     11 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Oct. 9 – INDEPENDENCE*, Home                              6:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 – Central Nebraska Tournament, Columbus              3 & 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – Central Nebraska Tournament, Columbus              1 & 3 p.m.
Oct. 16 – Butler County*, Away                   6:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 – Southeast Nebraska, Away                        6 p.m.
Oct. 23 – COWLEY*, Home                  6:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 – COFFEYVILLE*, Home                  6:30 p.m.
Oct. 30 – Labette*, Away                       6:30 p.m.
Nov. 5 -  LONGVIEW, Home                          6:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 – Region VI Playoffs, To be announced.
·    - Jayhawk Conference  ** - District N

PHOTO: Sophomores (from left) Kenya Alexander, Jessica Thompson, Jade Young and Rachel Replogle will be counted on to lead the 14th ranked KCKCC volleyball team this fall. (Photo by Mark Greathourse)