• Set up for life

  • When University of Missouri-bound Lisa Henning and Pittsburgh State’s Kirsten Erikson, two of Blue Springs’ all-state standouts, were putting dents in area gym floors with their dead-on kills – it was unheralded Kieley Culbertson who was setting the stage.

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  • Kieley Culbertson, this one’s for you.
    You’re the backbone of one of the most successful high school volleyball teams in the state, and you’re also the most unassuming team player I’ve ever been around.
    I remember talking to one of your teammates from last year’s Class 4 second-place state team and she asked, “Can you please do a story on Kieley? She deserves it. We’re nothing without her.”
    When University of Missouri-bound Lisa Henning and Pittsburgh State’s Kirsten Erikson, two of the Wildcats’ all-state standouts, were putting dents in area gym floors with their dead-on kills – it was the unheralded Culbertson who was setting the stage.
    The senior, who was the third Wildcat to make The Examiner’s 2009 All-Area team from Blue Springs High School, had an amazing 1,054 assists last year – second all-time for a single season in the state – and goes into her senior year at Blue Springs with 1,902.
    If she records 900 assists this season, she will be the all-time assist leader in the history of the state.
    While she might not get much attention from anyone but her teammates, she gets it from coaches across the nation.
    After watching Culbertson star for her Kansas City Mavs year-round competitive team, she was offered a full-ride to Georgetown University, the NCAA Division I school in Washington, D.C.
    She accepted.
    “What a great honor for a great kid,” Wildcats coach Katie Grusing said, when asked about Culbertson committing to the prestigious Big East Conference university.
    “She can handle it academically and she can handle anything they throw at her on the court. She’s the ultimate team player.
    “It’s easy for a kid whose name is in every headline to say, ‘I don’t care if my name is in the headlines.’ But with Kieley, she really doesn’t care. All she cares about is her team and winning. We’re so happy she’s back this year.”
    The Wildcats lost six senior standouts off last year’s team, but the returning all-area setter should set the stage for another terrific Wildcats season.
    “We’re young, awfully young, but we’re talented,” Culbertson said after a recent practice session. “We’ve really looked good in practice and we’re all looking forward to the season starting.”
    When asked about her Division I scholarship, she flashed a smile that lit up the gym.
    “It’s pretty special,” she said. “When you play for a team like Blue Springs, you’re always going to have a big target on your back because we’ve always had such good teams.”
    When asked if the target might be bit larger on the back of the Wildcats Division I setter, she said, “It might be. But I’m fine with that. All I want to do is make every other player out on the court that much better.
    Page 2 of 2 - “And I’ll do anything to make that happen.”
    Grusing said that Culbertson is so adapt at what she does, it sometimes catches her off guard.
    “She never makes a mistake, she’s always in the right place and she makes the girls on the front row look awfully good – not that they haven’t always been extremely talented – but when they get that perfect feed, it makes their job a lot easier.
    “I remember one practice session when I asked Kieley to make her passes about a foot to the side of a front row player. That might not sound like much, but it can make the difference between a kill and a blocked shot.
    “Every set, from that point on, was right where it needed to be. We can take her for granted, but we shouldn’t. She’s special.”
    And she’s finally going to get her name in a headline.
    Although I’m betting she’d trade a win, or a Division I scholarship, for a headline any day of the week.

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