Looking to the bench for a spark, Blue Springs volleyball coach Katie Grusing got a firecracker when she brought in sophomore Bri Starr.

Looking to the bench for a spark, Blue Springs volleyball coach Katie Grusing got a firecracker when she brought in sophomore Bri Starr.

Starr entered the game with the Wildcats trailing by two then accounted for four points in a five-point run to give Blue Springs a 25-22 victory in the first game against Cor Jesu Academy of St. Louis. The momentum carried into the second game as the Wildcats beat Cor Jesu 25-13 to take third place at the Blue Springs South Volleyball Invitational on Saturday.

Grusing said Starr’s play is indicative of the Wildcats’ team identity this season. With a deep talent pool on and off the floor, Grusing said she imagines it’s tough to game plan for the Wildcats.

“Bri didn’t start on the floor, but she came in and immediately gave us that lift that we needed,” Grusing said. “This group continues to do that for each other no matter what kid it is.”

Teammate Holly Tarvin, who led the Wildcats with six kills and four aces, said Starr has a tendency to be reliable when put in those types of situations.

“Whenever we need a kill, she’s there to put the ball down and get us going,” Tarvin said. “It really helps us out.”

The Wildcats never found themselves in a similar situation as they pulled away early and never looked back. Grusing said winning at that point after a long day of playing was as much of a mental battle as it was a battle on the court.

“I thought we just continued to get stronger as that match wore on,” she said.

Grusing noticed the biggest difference was at the front line. The Wildcats finally figured out a way past the huge blockers of Cor Jesu, something they couldn’t do in pool play when the Wildcats lost to the Chargers.

“Earlier in the day we could not figure out what to do with it,” Grusing said. “We couldn’t hit around it. We couldn’t hit over it. We couldn’t cover it.”

Blue Springs found a way and earned a third-place trophy. Tarvin said the team, which was knocked into the third-place match with a loss to St. Teresa’s Academy, wanted a first-place finish but was pleased with ending on a positive note.

Grusing said the tournament was a great opportunity to see how the Wildcats stacked up to some of the best competition in the area. The tournament was so well balanced that none of the No. 1 seeds made it to the championship and one didn’t even make it out of pool play.

“I think this was a good day for us in terms of the competition we played,” Grusing said. “Every pool is stacked. If you can get out of your pool, you’ve had a successful day.”

Grusing got another little added bonus as well. Persevering through the trials of an arduous day got the Wildcats more than a third-place plaque.

“This tournament really brought us together as a team,” Tarvin said.