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Examiner
  • Seven Wildcats sign letters

  • Seven Blue Springs High School students signed national letters of intent Wednesday morning at the high school auditorium, including four who will play Division I sports beginning in the fall of 2013.

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  • Seven Blue Springs High School students signed national letters of intent Wednesday morning at the high school auditorium, including four who will play Division I sports beginning in the fall of 2013.
    Lizzy Wendell will play basketball at Drake University; Karyla Middlebrook will play basketball at Texas Tech; Allie Mata will dive at Western Kentucky; and Bri Starr will play volleyball at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.
    The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg attracted three Wildcats, including Alex Duvall, baseball; Maddie Hood, softball; and Kourtney Thompson, volleyball.
    “Lizzy and Karyla are two of the best basketball players in the metro area and the state,” Wildcats basketball coach Mark Spigarelli said of the two all-state standouts. “Karyla has improved so much over the years. She is a tremendous ball handler and always gets the defensive assignment against the best player on the opposing team.
    “Lizzy started out as a skinny freshman and has developed into one of the best Division I players in the state. As a sophomore she set a school record when she shot 45 percent from 3-point range, but that was back when no one knew about her and she wasn’t guarded – those days are over. I'm just really excited for both of them."
    Added Middlebrook, “It feels good to have the pressure of recruiting over and knowing where I'm going to play college ball. But there will always be the pressure of going out and performing. Everyone says this is going to be a down year at Blue Springs, and we've got the 'Drive for Five' motivating us.”
    The Wildcats have appeared in four consecutive final fours in Columbia and are gunning for a fifth straight this year.
    “It just feels so good to be going to Drake,” Wendell said of the school in Des Moines, Iowa. “I fell in love with it when I visited and can't wait to get there. But we have one more season at Blue Springs and our only goal is going to the final four for a fifth straight year.”
    Wildcats diving coach Missy Jackson said Mata always gave 110 percent, even when she was a freshman on the junior varsity team.
    “Her freshman year was her first year of diving,” Jackson said, “and she was an outstanding freshman diver. She's worked so hard to become one of the best divers in the state. She gives 110 percent at practice, competing and in the classroom. I think she's going to be a great college diver.”
    “I didn't think I was going to dive in college,” Mata said, “then I met the coach at Western Kentucky and we really clicked. Now, I can't wait.”
    Wildcats volleyball coach Katie Grusing praised Starr for her dramatic improvement each year.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Bri had 151 kills as a sophomore,” Grusing said, “and she had 276 as a senior. She is going to be a great addition to the Gardner-Webb team.”
    Starr said the North Carolina school was appealing because “I have always loved North Carolina. It's just the right size, has great academics and a great volleyball program.”
    Duvall missed last season following Tommy John surgery on his shoulder, but he said he's fired up about this season and playing college ball.
    “Tommy John surgery used to be a big deal,” Duvall said, “now, it's like a hiccup. The doctors are great and I'll be as good as new.”
    He must have a great tolerance for pain, as he pitched a nine-inning, 11-1 American Legion victory with a broken wrist.
    “My mom wasn't too happy about that one,” Duvall said, grinning, “but it's all worked out fine.”
    Grusing called Thompson “one of the best players I've coached,” and Jim Brandner, assistant softball coach, said of Hood, who hit .381 last season, “UCM is getting a good one.”
     
     
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