Alicia Starr lived up to her last name Thursday.
And her Blue Springs volleyball teammates weren’t too bad either. The Wildcats shocked Suburban Big Six rival Blue Springs South in a 25-20, 25-23 thriller at South.
Blue Springs took an 0-4 record into the match against the Jaguars, the ninth-ranked team in the coaches’ state poll, and used the brilliant up-front play of Starr and Alexis Williams and the strong defensive play of Erin Bodenstab and Kate Tucker to claim its first victory of the season.
When asked if she sensed an upset win Thursday night, Blue Springs coach Katie Grusing quipped, “I'll tell you how I felt today. I threw up twice.”
South coach Dave MacLean knows the feeling. He was devastated following the loss before an enthusiastic group of Jaguar supporters.
“I'll take full responsibility for this loss,” MacLean said after his team fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Six. “First off, give Katie's girls all the credit in the world. You could tell they wanted it so much more than our girls did, and that is so disappointing for a coach.
“Our girls need to be accountable. They are not tough mentally. And to go into a match like this and not be mentally tough is the coach's fault. There are going to be some changes. I don't know what they are right now, but there will be changes.”
South ran off to a 7-3 lead in the first game with Mia Swanegan, who is committed to Division I TCU, collecting two kills and an ace.
That's when Starr took over. She accounted for seven consecutive points with three kills and four blocks to give the underdog Wildcats a 10-7 lead.
The Wildcats then ran off seven points in a row with Williams collecting three kills and Bodenstab, a senior, and Tucker, a sophomore, covering the court and stopping any attempt of a Jaguar rally dead in its tracks.
“This is my first varsity win,” said Tucker, who led the Wildcats with 12 digs. “I'll never forget it. I need to catch my breath – it's just so exciting. We came over here knowing we could win if we played our best, and we played our best match this season.”
Bodenstab, one of the lone veterans for the Wildcats (1-4, 1-1 Big Six), called it one of her most memorable wins.
“You don't want to be 0-4 as a senior and wonder how the rest of the season is going to go,” said Bodenstab, who added 11 digs. “Mia is such a factor for them, but we would not let her intimidate us. Kate played great, Alicia and Alexis were great up front – everyone who played contributed to this win.
“We've been really successful the entire time I've played at Blue Springs, and this win is as big as any I have been involved with. This is a special night. We're all going to enjoy it.”
The second game was a nail-biter, as the Jaguars trailed 7-3 but rallied behind Swanegan's play on the front row to tie it 7-all.
“We didn't want it to go to a third game,” said Starr, who finished with seven kills. “We lost to (Lee's Summit) North in three games earlier this week, and we didn't want to go to three tonight. So we all worked really hard in that second game.”
Blue Springs led 22-19, only to see Swanegan slam three kills to knot the score at 22-all.
Tied at 23-all, the Jaguars hit an errant ball and Ellie Tucker served an ace to close out the match and set off a wild celebration on the Wildcats’ bench.
“When I served (the ace) and saw it go down on their side of the court, I was like, 'It's over!'” said Ellie Tucker, Kate’s twin sister. “It just felt so good to see all the girls so excited.”
The win takes a coaching load off Grusing and her staff.
“We've been so close, but what do you say when you have a group who works as hard as these girls work and you can't get a win?” Grusing said. “Now, they have a win, and they know how close they are to being a very good team.”
Williams also finished with seven kills for Blue Springs, and Swanegan led South with 10.