It seemed fitting that senior outside hitter Aliyah Bello would end Blue Springs’ two-set win over Truman with back-to-back kills.
After struggling earlier, she helped the Wildcats claim a 25-15, 25-17 Class 4 District 14 semifinal victory to advance to today’s 6 p.m. title game against rival Blue Springs South.
“I didn’t play that well tonight, so it was nice to get those kills,” said Bello, as fellow senior Cherray Wilson nodded in agreement. “This win is big. We were in the district title game last year and lost (to St. Teresa’s), so it was important to all of us to get a win tonight and get the championship tomorrow night.”
Wilson, who had six kills and an ace, agreed, adding, “Our goal coming over to Truman was getting to the championship match and winning it. We completed one of our goals tonight (the Wildcats had an opening bye as they are the No. 1 seed). We hope to complete our second goal tomorrow night.”
The Wildcats dominated both sets, although the Patriots had their moments. Behind Marlee Guenther’s 11 kills, Truman made things interesting during stretches in both losses.
“You have to pick it up a notch when you play a quality team like Blue Springs,” Truman coach David Gardner said after his team wrapped up a 6-24-2 season. “Overall, we played average and average isn’t going to beat Blue Springs.
“But Marlee did a nice job on the front row.”
Moments after the match ended, Guenther, a senior, hugged her teammates, knowing she had played her final volleyball match.
“I’m not playing volleyball in college, so tonight is it,” Guenther said. “It hit me that it was all over the minute the match ended. I love these girls and this team so much, it’s tough. But, at least we made it interesting.
“I couldn’t have lived with a big loss in my final match. We lost, but we fought hard and we lost to a great team.”
Sophomore Chloe Kaminski was again a standout for the Wildcats, finishing with a team-high nine kills.
“I think it was good for our team to get ahead, and then have Truman make a run. We were able to stop them and get the two-set win,” Kaminski said. “We’re all so excited for (Wednesday) night, we can’t wait to be in a district championship.”
Because the Wildcats played the first semifinal game Tuesday, they left before learning that South got past Fort Osage in the later semifinal contest.
“We’ve talked about getting to the championship and winning it,” Wildcats coach Katie Straka said after her team improved to 21-10. “Before last year, when we lost to St. Teresa’s, we hadn’t been in a district championship since 2015, so this is still kind of new and exciting for our girls.
“And I’m so happy for them because they are a great group of kids to be around. I love them. They can be loose and have fun, but they know when to get down to business.”