The mood was festive and bright. As members of the Blue Springs South Volleyball Booster Club hung decorative balloons in the gymnasium, coach Dave MacLean went over some last-minute instructions with his Jaguars.
It was the first volleyball jamboree in school history, and it went off without a hitch.
“I remember how excited I was when I was a senior in high school and I found out that we were going to have a football jamboree,” MacLean said late Tuesday afternoon. “That was 15 years ago. Why on earth has it taken so long for something as exciting as a jamboree to take on other sports?
“When I found that MSHSAA (Missouri State High School Activities Association) was allowing other sports to have jamborees, I contacted the schools I wanted to play and got everything set up. The girls are excited, and I'm excited, too. This is going to be a great night.”
Area powers Staley, St. Teresa’s and Pleasant Hill visited the Jaguars’ first jamboree and played a round-robin, glorified practice session.
“This is a dress rehearsal,” MacLean said. “Last year, the first time we stepped on the court was the Metro Slam (which was televised by Metro Sports). I had some itty-bitty newcomers out there, and their first time in a varsity setting was on television.
“We can use tonight to get the early-season jitters out of their system and we’re playing some elite teams, so we’ll find out where we stand early in the season.”
Two Jaguar standouts and NCAA Division I recruits, Mia Swanegan (Texas Christian University) and Alexa Armendariz (University of Missouri), shared their coach’s enthusiasm for the event.
“I agree with Coach MacLean, this is going to be an exciting evening,” Swanegan said as her teammates braided each other's hair or grabbed a quick bite to eat. “This just gives us a little bit more experience as a team headed into the regular season, and that always helps.”
The Jaguars are expected to be one of the premier teams in Eastern Jackson County, and Swanegan believes any extra competitive edge they receive from a jamboree will be beneficial.
“When Coach MacLean told us about the jamboree, we were all excited,” she said. “And then we got to thinking about how much it would help the team. We know we have a big target on our back this season, and a jamboree lets us play some other great teams, but it’s a practice session, so the pressure really isn't there like when the games count.
“We can really use something like this to our advantage.”
Armendariz agreed, adding, “It’s kind of fun to be the team everyone is gunning for your senior year. Mia and I have talked about that, and we all know that something like this jamboree is going to help us be a better team once the season starts.
“We had a great connection during the summer (where they won the Lee’s Summit North Summer League crown), and now, we can get back in the competitive mode and regain that connection that you get from playing.”