Blue Springs South volleyball coach Dave MacLean aims to put on one of the toughest volleyball tournaments in the Midwest when he organizes South’s tournament.  

Saturday’s event at the Blue Springs Fieldhouse that featured teams from St. Louis, Springfield, Arkansas and Kansas certainly met that standard as just qualifying for bracket play could be thought of as a success considering one team that entered the tournament nationally ranked failed to do so.

In the end, MacLean’s Jaguars finished second in their pool and bowed out of the tournament in the first round of bracket play with a loss to eventual tournament champion Lafayette-Wildwood (25-17, 26-24), while Blue Springs took third in its pool and lost in the opening round of the third-place bracket to Fayetteville, Ark. (25-22, 25-17).

“My kids never gave up and they consistently played hard,” MacLean said. “We still have moments of focus, which is to be expected in matches against tough competition, but that’s the whole goal is to get better and improve that. Playing the good competition here shows and reiterates what we have to keep working on to get better.”

In pool play, South (20-5) beat St. Louis Incarnate Word Academy (25-21, 25-21) and Pleasant Hill (25-23, 30-28) before falling to St. Teresa’s (25-23, 26-24).

Meaunna Booth and Hannah LaPour combined for 43 kills to lead the Jaguars offense, with each player reaching double digits in blocks on defense.

Setter Rylie Gregston had 75 assists and 22 digs on the day, while Katie Sparks (15) and Carsen Murray (13) also reached double figures in kills.

Blue Springs (7-11) beat St. Louis Villa Duchesne (19-25, 25-22, 25-23) in pool play, but lost its other group matches to Blue Valley North (25-14, 25-14) and Francis Howell (19-25, 25-21, 19-25).

“We just really struggled from the beginning,” Blue Springs coach Katie Grusing said. “We had some passing woes we couldn’t overcome, and that makes it hard to do everything else. I thought at points in the day we put together runs but couldn’t sustain it. It was just a rough day. The key will be able to recover from that, being mentally tough enough to do that.”

Hannah Vanriette knocked down 32 shots, made six blocks and recorded 37 digs to lead the Wildcats, with Caroline Foster adding 65 assists and Aliya Bello 38 digs.

Grusing also noted the competitiveness of the tournament.

“I feel like I our conference prepares us for this a bit as it’s a tough conference,” she said. “But here, you lose and you turn around and have to play right away and you see another great team across the net – mentally it takes a toll.”

MacLean said the philosophy of the tournament is to keep it as a premier high school volleyball event.

“Anything you do you want to do well and to the best of your abilities,” he said. “We’ve worked hard at little things to make the tournament run well and smooth. You want the teams to come and enjoy it and feel like they get a lot out of it. We hire really good refs, have good people working and have it at the Fieldhouse so everybody is at one site and you can see great teams. We work hard on the pooling so the pools are fair, but at the same time they aren’t playing teams they usually play. Because of that teams keep wanting to come. We have to turn teams away, so it’s started to turn into a really good, high-quality tournament and you can test what you do to the best of your abilities.

“We like keeping it that way. It makes it a lot of fun.”