When Brianna Starr and Holly Tarvin attend their first high school volleyball practice, they’re going to have some exciting tales for their new Blue Springs Wildcat teammates.

When Brianna Starr and Holly Tarvin attend their first high school volleyball practice, they’re going to have some exciting tales for their new Blue Springs Wildcat teammates.
Starr and Tarvin, who will attend the Blue Springs Freshman Center and play volleyball at Blue Springs High School, were members of the Invasion 14U Black USA Volleyball squad that placed second at the USA Volleyball Nationals in Miami.
The Invasion squad finished the summer with 10 first-place titles out of 12 tournaments and finished with a 9-3 match record and 18-7 game record in Miami to place second in the nation.
“The talent at nationals was just unbelievable,” said Starr, a middle and right-side hitter. “The entire summer was just so much fun. We did a lot of traveling and played all over the country.
“It’s something you couldn’t do if you really didn’t love the sport – and we all love to play volleyball.”
Tarvin, a middle hitter, agreed, adding, “I never thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go to practice,’ or ‘Do we have to play in this tournament?’ because we do love the sport.
“When we got down to the final eight teams at the nationals, the talent level was just off the charts. I don’t think we ever played better volleyball. No one player stood out, we were in a zone as a team and we played as a team.
“We’d have liked to have won the national championship, but we’re all so proud of being the No. 2 team in the nation because of the talent level we played against.”
One of the biggest wins in the tournament came in semifinals, where the Invasion fought their way past Encinitas, Calif., 25-19, 25-16.
“They had beaten us in pool play and they weren’t our favorite team,” Starr said, diplomatically.
Alexa Ethridge, the Invasion’s setter who will be a freshman at Lee’s Summit North, added, “Nothing can top beating Encinitas. They didn’t like us very much. They were big and strong, but we found a way to beat them in the semifinals.”
Alexa’s father, Mark Ethridge, is the Invasion coach, and he knows that win took the ultimate team effort.
“There were some emotional moments for the team,” Mark said. “We beat a team from St. Louis that beat us at nationals last year. When you talked to me last year, I told The Examiner, ‘I don’t like to lose to a team from St. Louis.’ Well, this year we got them back.
“The semifinal win over the team from California was also emotional. They were big and bold and liked to talk, and the girls really wanted that victory – and they got it. I was so proud of them.
“Now, speaking as a coach, there almost seemed like a letdown getting to the finals because we worked so hard to get there. There were so many great teams at nationals, and to make it to the championship is something special – something we’ll never forget.”
And it turns out, the Invasion was a victim of revenge in the finals.
“We lost to TAV, a team out of Dallas, 22-25, 24-26 – and we had beaten them at the last national qualifier we were at in Minneapolis,” Mark Ethridge said. “But on that day, they were the better team.”
But that doesn’t take away from the team’s experience. The team also includes Alexa Armendariz, who will be a freshman at Blue Springs South, Morgan Beal, who will be a freshman at Lee’s Summit North, and Kylie Bain, who will be a freshman at Lee’s Summit West. Other team members are Haley Corkill, Amy Lindhorst and Jordan Tucker.
“The girls entered the summer with great expectations and made it all the way to the championship match,” Mark said. “It was just a great summer.”
The Invasion qualified for the national tournament by winning three qualifying tournaments – in Kansas City, Denver and Minneapolis.
“We found a way to be competitive, win a lot of tournaments and still have fun,” Starr said. “I don’t think we could have played as well as we did if we didn’t have fun.”
It was even fun for the coach’s kid.
“Sometimes it’s a little tough having my dad as the coach,” Alexa said, “but I love playing for him and I love the girls on the team. We’ll never forget this summer.”