For one emotional, highly charged night, the Blue Springs South High School volleyball team was no longer the Jaguars – they were coach Dave MacLean's “Comeback Kids.”
Before a packed Senior Night crowd, the Comeback Kids overcame a 20-16 deficit in the first set and a 13-5 roadblock in the second set to claim a memorable 25-21, 26-24 Suburban Big Six victory over visiting Lee's Summit North.
The win gives the Jaguars a 17-11-1 overall mark and 6-4 conference mark, which leaves them tied with the 12-15 Broncos for second place.
Trailing 23-20 in the second set, the Jaguars rallied behind two kills by seniors Mia Swanegan and Halan Mann and won the tight match on a ringing kill by senior Taylor Cross.
“When Taylor got that final kill down, I was so excited – we were all so excited,” said Swanegan, who tied junior Erica Mason with a team-high seven kills. “It was such a special moment. It was the moment we knew we'd won on Senior Night.”
Cross played down her role in the win, saying, “This is a very special win, but my kill was just a part of it. This was a great team win. We were able to come back from two large deficits because we never gave up and believed in each other.
“We felt like, no matter what the score was, or how far we were behind, we were going to find a way to win. And we did.”
The Broncos, who defeated the Jaguars earlier this season at North, held that 20-16 lead in the first set before South senior Alexis Armendariz served six consecutive points to give the Jaguars a 22-20 lead.
The set ended on a block by Swanegan that fell between two Bronco defenders.
“We're so inconsistent at times, but tonight, I'm proud that the girls found a way to win,” MacLean said. “At times, we made life easy for Lee's Summit North and tough on ourselves, but overall, I was pleased with the performance tonight.
“A lot of emotions out there – with it being Senior Night. You never know how a team is going to react to something like Senior Night, and you could tell the girls weren't really focused in the first set.
“But they got focused and found a way to win. In the second set, when we were down (13-5) we called a timeout and were pretty tough on them. But they responded in a positive fashion and got a big win.”
When asked for his emotions following Cross' game-clinching kill, MacLean just smiled.
“Taylor plays with a lot of emotion,” MacLean said. “She has a lot of highs and some lows, but she was mostly high tonight and when she plays like that, she plays like she's a lot taller than 5-foot-7. That kill was huge. It came at the perfect time.”
While the players were taking family photos, drinking punch and eating cupcakes in the commons area, first-year Jaguar Jenna Rau took it all in.
“This is my first year at South because I went to St. Mary's (which closed its doors) last year,” Rau, a junior and one of the Jaguars’ starting front row players, said of the five seniors, including libero Angelica Camareno. “Even though I was around our seniors just one year, I love each and every one of them. I'm going to miss them and visit them at college.
“I'm just so happy that we were able to win for them tonight. They're all so happy, and that makes me happy.”
The same thing could not be said for the Broncos, as many players left the locker room with tears streaming down their faces.
“We lost to a very good Blue Springs South team,” North coach Rhea Moses said. “We're young, and we came up a little bit short tonight, which is disappointing. But our girls never quit fighting, and gave it all they had. I'm proud of the way they played tonight and the way they have played this entire season.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC