The usual suspects came through in a big way for coach Katie Straka’s Wildcats Thursday.
Blue Springs survived a second-set scare from the visiting Blue Springs South Jaguars to claim a crowd-pleasing 25-18, 25-23 Suburban Big Six win on an emotional "Pink Out" Dig For The Cure night at Blue Springs High School.
Wildcat seniors Cherray Wilson and Aliyah Bello savored their first home win against the Jaguars Thursday night while sophomore Chloe Kaminski talked about playing a role in future Blue Springs victories as fans from both teams – many of them cancer survivors – talked about the exciting night.
“It was one of those special nights, those special matches, where fans from both schools were cheering for both teams following a good rally,” Straka said after her Wildcats improved to 20-10 and 7-3 with their fifth straight win in the regular season finale for both teams.
“This was such an emotional night for so many people here, and the girls from both teams really put on a great show. I don’t think anyone wanted it to end, but I’m happy it ended with a win for our girls in that second set.”
While the Wildcats dominated most of the first set, coach Mallori Perry’s Jaguars overcame an early 11-3 deficit and used a late run – fueled by outside hitter Kylie Gregory – to turn a 24-20 deficit into a nail-biter.
“We had a tough loss (to undefeated conference opponent Lee’s Summit West) Tuesday and a tough practice Wednesday, and I was hoping the girls would come over here tonight and play hard,” said Perry, a former assistant to Straka. “And they did. I just told them that I thought tonight was the first time all season that everyone bought into what we were doing. And even though we lost, we can take so many positives away from tonight.
“And I love coming over here. I’d rather win when we come over here, but it’s still fun and this is such a special for our teams, our fans, cancer survivors and our two schools.”
Wilson and Bello were stoked to talk about their first two-win season over the Jaguars.
“We never beat them at home until tonight,” Wilson said, referring to herself and Bello. “And the atmosphere was amazing. It only happens one time a year, but it is amazing when it happens.”
Bello nodded in agreement and added, “This was so much fun. We really had to fight to win that second set and we were able to do it. There was a great crowd and it was special. We’ll always remember tonight.”
Kaminski and Wilson led the way with eight kills each, and the youngster was eager to talk about her first home Dig For The Cure night.
“This was so cool,” said Kaminski, who also starred on the back row as she finished with several key digs. “I played in the game last year, but it was at South. To beat South at home, and to listen to how excited our seniors are about the win, makes it even more special.”
The Wildcats’ unsung hero was setter Lily Letchworth, who put up 25 near-perfect sets for Kaminski, Wilson and Co.
“I love the anticipation of giving our girls on the front row a set right where they want it and watching them get a kill,” Letchworth said. “This was a great team win tonight. Everyone contributed.”
While she didn’t walk away with a win, Gregory was proud of the 12-18, 4-6 Jaguars’ effort.
“We got down early in that second set,” Gregory said, “and fought back to make it a game. We had that great rally at the end. Now, we just have to start out like we finished that set and we could have a great postseason.”