Spark plug: Gharst provides fire as Patriots top Falcons

By Bill Althaus
Truman's Kylie Gharst (30) celebrates a point during Truman's 3-0 victory over host Van Horn Wednesday.

Kylie Gharst is a cheerleader, motivator, inspirational leader and a senior middle hitter for the Truman High School volleyball team.

And she’s usually in the middle of everything that seems to go right for coach David Gardner’s Patriots who rode solid front row dominance by Gharst, Sarina Ulberg and Co., to earn a 25-11, 25-6, 25-11 non-conference victory at Van Horn High School Wednesday night.

“I believe we can take the confidence and momentum we built up tonight and use it Thursday night when we go to Raymore-Peculiar,” Gardner said after the Patriots’ opening match of the season. “We played well tonight. It was a nice way to start the season.”

Gharst and Ulberg agreed with their coach.

“You could see our confidence grow and build as the match went on,” said Ulberg, a junior middle hitter/setter. “We know we’re going to Ray-Pec tomorrow, and we were able to work on some things tonight that will help us against them because they are one of the best teams in the area.

“But I was impressed with the way Van Horn never quit playing hard tonight. They are a good team – it was just our night.”

Truman's Sarina Ulberg makes a dig on a Van Horn hit in Wednesday's match at Van Horn. Ulberg and the Patriots went on to claim a 3-0 win.

Gharst, whose enthusiasm seemed to give the Patriots a spark, couldn’t wait to talk about the big opening night win.

“When we talked before the season, none of us had any idea if we were going to play, but that didn’t keep us from working as hard as we could in practice,” Gharst said. “I loved every minute of tonight. I wanted to cheer on my teammates, inspire my teammates, let them know how big and important it is to be playing.

“I played with more energy tonight than I ever had and that’s how I’m going to play all season. It’s my senior year and you know I’m going to give it all I have every day – at practice and in our games.”

Truman's Kylie Gharst (30) celebrates a point during Truman's 3-0 victory over host Van Horn Wednesday.

While she was not thrilled with the outcome, first-year Van Horn coach Jackie Becker likes the approach her young Falcons took against the Patriots.

“It’s not always about winning and losing,” Becker said after her team saw its record fall to 3-3 with its second straight loss after going 3-1 and finishing second in its opening tournament. “We played with a lot of intensity, and I never saw one of my girls give up on any play.

“We had a little pushback in the third game and our girls got really excited when that happened.”

Van Horn first-year coach Jackie Becker instructs her team during a timeout in its home match against Truman. The Falcons suffered a 3-0 loss in the best-of-five format.

That pushback came when junior defensive specialist Nitzia Castillo, who was called up from the junior varsity squad, served three consecutive points, including a crowd-pleasing ace.

“Nitzia is a fireball and I wanted to see what she could do on the varsity level – and she played really well tonight,” Becker said. “We’d win a lot of matches if I had 30 girls with Nitzia’s enthusiasm.

“Tonight didn’t go the way we hoped, but we saw some good things and will get back to work and hopefully play better the rest of the season.”

Sanoma Hunter led the Falcons with three blocks and Aimee Hanes, Erika Parrish and Hunter had two kills each.

Truman's Laila Tatum (16) tries to spike the ball past a block attempt by Van Horn's Rhiannon Blackburn (2) and Sanoma Hunter in Wednesday's match at Van Horn. Truman went on to claim a 3-0 victory.
Truman's Kylie Gharst (30) smashes a spike past the block attempt of Van Horn's Sanoma Hunter (1) in Wednesday's match at Van Horn. Gharst, a senior middle hitter, led the Patriots to a 3-0 win.