For years, the Blue Springs High School volleyball team has dominated the Suburban Big Six Conference and most postseason polls.
After watching her new-look Wildcats, coach Katie Grusing admits her team – which lost most of its star power to graduation, including Examiner Player of the year Holly Tarvin, to graduation – still needs some fine-tuning.
“The girls know and I know there is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Grusing said Tuesday night following a 25-19, 24-25 match with Truman (in the jamboree format, each team started with 6 points and needed just 25 to win, without having a 2-point advantage). “We made too many unforced errors. Truman made its unforced errors in the first (game) and we made ours in the second (including an unforced error that led to Truman’s 25th point.)
“It was so true tonight, the team that made the fewest errors had the most points on the scoreboard. And that’s something we are going to emphasize. Tonight, we were playing an opponent, but it was in a practice-type situation, so there really shouldn’t have been a lot of pressure.
“I saw some good things and a lot of things we’ll begin working on tomorrow at practice.”
Truman coach Denise Craig felt much the same as Grusing.
The Patriots claimed what Craig believed to be the first-ever victory over a Wildcat squad in the 25-24 win, they then overcame a sloppy 23-25 loss to Raymore-Peculiar to rebound with a 25-19 win.
“I was happy with how we came back after not playing very well and winning against Blue Springs and Ray-Pec,” Craig said. “But the girls know – and I certainly know – that we are capable of playing much better than we played tonight.
“But that’s the great thing about a jamboree format. You see what you need to work on, and you can work on it in a game-situation. We really appreciate Coach Grusing and Blue Springs High School inviting us to their jamboree.
“I know everyone hopes this becomes an annual event. We all get so excited about the football jamboree, and now, hopefully our volleyball fans will get excited about our jamboree.”
The Patriots were certainly exciting following their come-from-behind win over the Panthers.
Sophomore Bri Savidge was serving with the Patriots down 10-9 and served seven consecutive points to give Truman a 16-10 lead it never relinquished.
In an unusual move, Craig interrupted Savidge after her first serve.
“I did, and I did it for a reason,” Craig said. “Bri is a great server. We were down, and she was serving like she was nervous. I wanted her to serve like she was serving for the match point.”
And it worked.
“I served some points, but it was a team win,” Savidge said. “We have so many areas we can work on, and we will, because this is a hard-working team and we pay attention to what Coach says. This was a lot of fun tonight because it was competitive, and when we didn’t play well, we found a way to come back and get a win.”
Lexi Hart, another standout sophomore, dominated on the front row, but drew a bit of criticism from her coach.
“Lexi can be such a better overall player,” Craig said as Hart nodded in agreement. “There’s more to her game than just spiking the ball. She knows what to work on, and she’s going to get better and better.”
Hart said the wins over Blue Springs and Raymore-Peculiar indicated the Patriots were headed in the right direction.
“We started out slow against those teams, but finished strong, and Coach likes to see us finish strong,” Hart said. “This was a fun night. We all had fun – especially after we won.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC