Even after two losses Tuesday in the Lee’s Summit North High School Summer League’s varsity division, Blue Springs volleyball head coach Katie Grusing still has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about her program’s future after the graduation of all-state performers Lisa Henning and Kirsten Erikson.
Katie Grusing knows the value of summer league play.
Even after two losses Tuesday in the Lee’s Summit North High School Summer League’s varsity division, the Blue Springs volleyball head coach still has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about her program’s future after the graduation of all-state performers Lisa Henning and Kirsten Erikson.
Henning, an All-American, is headed to the University of Missouri in the fall and Erikson is bound for Pittsburg (Kan.) State after helping lead the Wildcats to a Class 4 state runner-up finish last fall.
“We lost two tough ones today, but we’re pretty young so …” Grusing said after Tuesday’s two set losses to Lee’s Summit West (25-23, 25-20) and O’Hara (25-17, 25-15).
“We’re trying to replace a couple of all-state seniors with some very, very talented sophomores,” Grusing continued, “and things are going to work out for us and we’re going to have a great season, but right now it’s just a huge learning curve.
“We play a lot of volleyball in the summer and our kids play a lot of volleyball in the summer and they’re kind of at a point right now – every kid in Kansas City that is still playing on their club team is getting to the point were they have played a lot of volleyball the last couple of weeks.
“Once school gets out it kind of becomes their life and the focus is really heavy on that, so once we can get through nationals and get into July and take a little break and then get into August and concentrate on their high school team. I’m pretty excited about our upcoming year. I know that sounds kind of funny having lost two games tonight, but it’s true.”
One of those talented sophomore Grusing speaks of is Holly Tarvin.
“Holly played a big role for us last year anyway – even as a freshman,” Grusing said. “As a sophomore, we’ll look for her more as an offensive player, which she didn’t have the burden of that last year. She’s really starting to come into her own in terms of offense.”
Tarvin, also a member of Invasion 15 Black that has qualified for USA Volleyball Nationals, said the high school summer league season has been different without Henning and Erikson there to lead the way.
“I think we are just getting into the groove of everything and clicking and learning to talk,” Tarvin said. “It’s totally different. Everyone has to step up their game now in place of (Henning) and Kirsten – everyone just needs to step up their game.”
NEW ERA AT SOUTH: Deb Becker, the new volleyball head coach at Blue Springs South, is using the summer league at Lee’s Summit North to get acquainted with her new squad.
Becker, a head volleyball coach previously for 10 years – including stints at Harrisonville and Liberty – is back on the sidelines after serving eight years as a activities director for middle schools in the Blue Springs School District.
She replaces Carmen Johnson, who resigned to move with her family to Minnesota.
“We’re very young,” Becker said Tuesday. “We have four letter winners returning but we have a tremendous amount of young talent – this freshmen class we have coming in is outstanding. We’ve got a lot of good talent with some height and some skills you don’t normally see in freshman kids.
“It’s just an opportunity for us to observe what we have and make some decisions at the beginning of the year. We’ll definitely be going young.”
Jaguar senior-to-be Kayla Allen said this year will be her first year on varsity. Getting to know the new coaching staff and incoming players has been a learning process for her, she said.
“It’s really different,” Allen said. “It’s my senior year and I’m used to the other coach, but I’m really liking it. Changes are going well and I think we are going to have a good season this year. We have some really strong players.”
BEARS READY: Vanessa Jones and Katie Bobbitt agree on this: Lexi Salva and Lindsey Maxwell have both had productive summers in league play at Lee’s Summit North.
Jones, head coach of William Chrisman, and Bobbitt, one of the Bears’ leading returnees, both see continuous improvement from Salva, an outside hitter, and Maxwell, a setter.
The Bears lost only four players from last season’s team.
“I think we have a pretty good team coming back, so I’m excited,” Bobbitt said shortly before the Bears split two matches with Pleasant Hill and Belton on Tuesday. “Everyone has room for improvement, but I think we have a good team. Lexi is probably the most consistent and we have a really good setter (Maxwell) – the whole team is pretty good.”
Added Jones: “I think we’ve being doing pretty good. I love summer league because it gives us an opportunity to get us ready and see things we need to look at.
“Not that our seniors from last year didn’t have an impact, but losing such a small amount has allowed the girls to step up and find their roles. I think they’re ready. We’ve worked hard already this summer.”