By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- It wasn’t a perfect start for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s No. 12 ranked volleyball team but it was awfully close.
Facing No. 1 Parkland in the opener, the Blue Devils fell behind 25-21, got even in the second set with a 25-22 win, dropped a 25-23 heartbreaker and then fell 25-16 in the final set.
“We just made too many errors in the last set,” said Bruno.
But it was all KCKCC the rest of the way as the Blue Devils won 12 of their final 15 sets starting with a sweep of No. 14 South Suburban 25-17, 25-16, 25-16 and a 30-28, 25-21, 26-28, 25-22 decision over No. 4 Illinois Central.
The Blue Devils jumped in front of No. 9 Des Moines Area 25-16, 25-23 and then won the decisive fifth set 15-9 after losing 25-23, 25-18. KCKCC then closed out the tourney with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 sweep of Waubunsee, which had received votes in the national rankings.
“Our defense was the key,” said Bruno.
Three Blue Devil sophomores vaulted into the national rankings with their performances in the opening tourney. Libero Andrea Aparicio took the lead nationally in both total digs (119) and average digs per set (6.26); outside hitter Blair Russell of Marysville is second in kills with 68 and sixth in kills per set (3.58); and setter Lily Thornberg of Junction City is fourth in assists per game (10.11).
The Blue Devils will get no time to rest on their early laurels as they open Jayhawk Conference play Wednesday at Neosho County, a team ranked right behind Johnson County, Cowley County and KCKCC in the preseason rankings. The KCKCC home opener will come Wednesday, Sept. 3, against Hesston but the Blue Devils will go back on the road for 11 straight matches including weekend tournaments at Highland Sept. 5-6 and New Port Richey, Fla., Sept. 12-13.