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Nicas sisters trading places

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Grain Valley graduate Abbie Nicas throws for the Metropolitan Community College Wolves. Nicas is leaving MCC to pitch for Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., while her younger sister Elle is joining the MCC team.

As one Nicas sister leaves Metropolitan Community College, another one is coming in to fill a spot on the roster.

Abbie Nicas wrapped up her sophomore season at the junior college earlier than planned this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Grain Valley product now heads to Missouri Valley College to wrap up the final two years of her playing career.

Her sister, Elle, a recent Grain Valley High School graduate, will join the Wolves later this summer to start her junior college playing career.

The story of how each wound up at MCC is a little different than normal trajectories.

Metropolitan softball coach Kary Kankey was at Grain Valley the day that Abbie Nicas signed to play softball in college, but that day Nicas signed with Avila University. Kankey was there for Nicas’ high school teammate, Autumn Bicknell.

“I remember wishing her good luck and congrats,” said Kankey, who is in her sixth year as the MCC head coach. “Everyone knows everyone in Kansas City in the softball world. Later, she reached out to me about transferring at semester.”

Abbie Nicas moved right into the rotation and factored into 27 decisions the past two seasons, though this year was cut to only 16 total games for the Wolves before play was halted due to the coronavirus.

She had a chance to impress the Missouri Valley staff last year during a spring game that the Wolves won 12-0. Playing in Marshall, Mo., Abbie Nicas gave up only one hit and struck out seven in a complete-game effort.

Abbie Nicas was 5-14 last year with four complete games and a 6.31 ERA. She was plagued, at times, by bad defense. Of the 121 runs she allowed, only 85 were earned. MCC was 12-34 her freshman season.

This year, the Wolves were 4-12 before the season ended. Nicas was 1-7 but lowered her ERA to 3.82 – and a chunk of that came in a game where she gave up six runs against Park University’s JV. In her seven losses, her run support by game was 4, 0, 2, 3, 5, 1 and 0.

“I think she will do good at Missouri Valley,” Kankey said. “They have a pitching coach at Mo Valley and we don’t have a dedicated one at MCC. I was a catcher, so I know the catching side of pitching. She will improve tremendously and can really focus on pitching.”

In a unique twist, Nicas had decided to go to school at Missouri Valley before the Vikings’ coaching staff offered her a scholarship. She got that letter in March, which made her decision to follow her dream of being an education major – and a teacher later – better.

She had thought of going to Central Missouri to just finish her degree, but she knew she would miss softball.

“I just wanted to stay close to home,” Abbie Nicas said.

As Abbie leaves, Elle is joining the roster at MCC.

However, her older sister didn’t play a giant role in making that connection happen. Instead, a random trip with a friend to a tryout at MCC helped blaze the path for Elle to go there.

Elle Nicas went with Lexi Potts, who played at Penney High School in Hamilton, Mo., for a visit last summer. Kankey noted the Wolves weren’t recruiting Nicas at the time, but knew of her from summer ball and her sister. After seeing Elle Nicas workout, they extended an offer.

“I was supposed to help my best friend try out there and Coach Kankey said, ‘Do you want to try out too?” Elle Nicas said of Potts, who died in November. “It was really exciting. I wasn’t necessarily dressed for the occasion, but it all worked out. It felt like it was meant to happen. I always wanted to play college softball and I had been looking at MCC.”

Elle Nicas was a three-year starter behind the plate for the Eagles, but brings versatility to MCC as she has experience playing in the outfield for her summer team – Originals Jeffries 18A.

“She has a great personality; she is just a neat kid,” Kankey said of Elle Nicas. “She will do good. She has a strong arm and is versatile. She receives the ball well. She spent a lot of time catching and being able to receive it is not easy. I was a catcher in college (Dayton) and you have to be able to build that relationship with a pitcher.”

Elle Nicas also looked at Washburn, William Jewell and UMKC and knew she wanted to stay close to home.

She starts school at MCC on Aug. 6 and is preparing for spring softball by doing more hours this fall. Elle plans to major in cybersecurity and minor in graphic design.

Abbie has also given her some advice for playing college softball.

“She told me to have an open mind and not think too much into anything – just play hard and work hard in school,” Elle said.

Until school starts, Elle is playing for Jeffries and the season started in early June in a tournament in Olathe, Kansas, going 5-1.

“We were pretty rusty but we were getting back into it, so it went as well as it could for a brand new set of girls,” Elle said. “We were practicing by January and would’ve started playing at the end of March or early April. We are just now starting where we should’ve been.”