There was more than the early advantage at stake as the Blue Springs and Blue Springs South volleyball teams, sporting pink uniforms as a nod to the Dig for the Cure promotion, battled for the last few points of the first set Thursday.
The way South coach Dave MacLean put it, there was almost a season’s worth of emotion building toward those points.
After rallying from a 22-20 deficit to win the first set, the visiting Jaguars rode that momentum into the second set and pulled away to complete a 25-23, 25-17 victory at a raucous Blue Springs High School, avenging a two-set loss to the Wildcats on their home court early in the season.
“I think it was an emotional thing,” MacLean said after his team improved to 13-11 overall and 5-4 in the Suburban Big Six. “These girls had such anticipation for this match all year, and it’s overwith so fast. It just goes so fast.
“Playing them year-round in club volleyball, getting beat early, it deflated them. We’ve been working our way back.”
The biggest lead either way in the first was South’s 10-5 edge, but three blocks from the front line and a couple set kills by Erin Bodenstab helped the Wildcats (8-14, 4-4) fight back for a 21-19 lead. Alexis’ Williams’ fifth kill of the set made it 22-20, but she then served into the net, and South freshman Camryn Gregston knocked back an overpass to tie it.
Blue Springs went back ahead when 6-footer Alicia Starr killed Bodenstab’s high cross-court set, but South was able to get a quick set for the 6-foot-2 Swanegan, and the TCU commit slammed down the tying kill. The Jaguars then repeated the process for the next two points and the set.
“We just wanted it so badly,” said Swanegan, who led all players with 10 kills. “When it’s tied, you want to be the team that pulls out and wins.
“At practice yesterday, we talked about what we put into practice, we need to put into the game.”
Blue Springs coach Katie Grusing praised the Jaguars’ play Thursday and said Swanegan made the difference in the first set.
“I can only think of a few errors,” she said. “Mia had a great night offensively. At times we didn’t have an answer for her.
“It’s a tight game; you’re back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. You get a kid that’s extremely skilled, and she just gets them over that hump. That’s what great players do.”
MacLean said the end of first set came down to the Jaguars’ passing game being a bit sharper than their crosstown rival.
“That could’ve been because of our serving,” he said. “It gave our kids confidence, and I think it puts a little more pressure on them (in the second set). I’m sure Katie was doing everything she could, I would’ve done the same in that situation.”
A Starr kill and Maddie Kissner block staked the Wildcats to a 10-8 lead in the second, but a Jenna Rau kill touched off a 14-4 run by the Jaguars to take control. Three players recorded kills, and Rau capped the spurt with a pair of blocks. Rau also had a pair of kills and Erica Mason a set kill to the corner to cap the victory.
The 6-foot Rau, who attended St. Mary’s High School before it closed last spring, finished with five blocks. She said MacLean emphasized the need to have strong blocking hands at the net.
“I knew a lot of players (from club), but this was a lot more fun and intense than at St. Mary’s,” the junior said. “We practiced (the block) a lot yesterday. He told us to ‘close it and get over the net’ We knew we had to get our block up.”
Taylor Cross added six kills for the Jaguars, while Starr’s eight kills and 13 digs paced the Wildcats. Williams added six kills and Bodenstab 12 assists and eight digs.
“We got into a passing rotation we struggled to get out of,” Grusing said of the second-set skid, “and when you struggle with passing you can’t score. I don’t think we handled that environment well. We have to be mentally stronger.”
Blue Springs' junior varsity was a 25-22, 25-20 winner.