Dig Pink 2020: Wildcats outlast Jaguars in 'classic' battle

By Bill Althaus
bill.althaus@examiner.net
Blue Springs' Lily Letchworth (15) leaps into the arms of teammates to celebrate the final point in a 3-0 win over rival Blue Springs South in the annual Dig Pink match.

On a night that raised money, consciousness and awareness, two crosstown rivals left it all on the court at Blue Springs South High School.

The visiting Blue Springs Wildcats claimed a 3-0 Suburban Big Eight victory on a special, emotionally charged Dig Pink night of volleyball.

“If there wasn’t a scoreboard, there is no way anyone watching would be able to tell who won tonight,” Wildcats coach Katie Grusing said after her team swept in three sets with close 25-20, 25-21 and 25-22 victories. “I don’t know how many Blue Springs-Blue Springs South games we’ve seen over the years, but this was just a classic matchup.

“Both teams amped it up, played great defense and played with great emotion. I’m just proud to be a part of something like this.”

Ditto for former Blue Springs assistant coach turned South head coach Mallori Perry.

“Amazing, just an amazing night,” Perry said as players from each team posed for photos and talked about the night that raised cancer awareness, along with raising funds for the Stephanie Vest Foundation.

“I agree with Katie – both teams played hard enough to win. And that’s what I just told my girls. District play starts next week, and as far as I’m concerned, we can take so many positives away from tonight. This is like a win.

“Both teams wanted it so badly. This is what high school volleyball is all about.”

Blue Springs South's Aubrey LaPour celebrates a point in Tuesday's Dig Pink match against Blue Springs. The visiting Wildcats topped the Jaguars in straight sets, 25-20, 25-21, 25-22.

She paused for a moment, and added, “And even with the pandemic keeping our gym from being full, it sounded like standing room only. What a great crowd. You could tell the girls from both teams appreciated their fans tonight.”

Before the game, players from both teams took flowers to loved ones who had dealt with – or are now dealing with – cancer. South players then tossed mini volleyballs into the stands and then began a night of gym-shaking volleyball.

“On a night like this, that is so emotional, you just take a deep breath and go out and play and have fun,” said Blue Springs junior outside hitter Chloe Kaminski, who led the Wildcats with 10 kills. “The energy level was extra high tonight – with the fans, the Dig Pink Night and playing your crosstown rival. It was just all so amazing, and they made us work so hard to get this win.”

Blue Springs' Ella Duchane celebrates after knocking down a kill in Tuesday's Dig Pink match at Blue Springs South. Duchane and the Wildcats claimed a 3-0 win.

Blue Springs (11-8, 7-6 Big Eight), which snapped a three-match conference losing streak, trailed 19-18 before scoring seven of the next eight points to claim the win. A block by Ella Duchane led to the winning point.

Kaminski had the winning kill in the second set, and the third set was highlighted by lengthy rallies that brought fans, players and coaches to their feet.

Blue Springs outside hitter Chloe Kaminski (4) tries to hit between the block attempt by Blue Springs South's Tamia McClunie (12) and Marti Strickert (8) in Tuesday's Dig Pink match at South. Kamisnki totaled a team-best 10 kills as the Wildcats won 3-0 in three close sets.

“You want to win on a night like this, but I am so proud to be a part of the Dig Pink Night and our team,” said South senior Kylie Gregory, who finished the night with three aces and 12 kills. “I was so proud of Aubrey (LaPour, who had 20 kills) tonight. She and I are energy buddies. We like to fire each other up, and she was really fired up tonight.”

Blue Springs South's Kylie Gregory (16) knocks down a kill past Blue Springs blocker Lily Letchworth (15) in Tuesday's Dig Pink match at South. Gregory had 12 kills and three aces but the visiting Wildcats claimed a 3-0 win.

Grusing agreed, adding, “Aubrey was unstoppable when she was on the left side. And she and Tamia (McClunie) had great overall games.”

McClunie added 14 kills and seven blocks for the Jaguars (6-11, 4-9).

“Aubrey, Tamia – all our girls – I love them and am so proud of them,” Perry said as family members and fans showered her with flowers after the match. “I feel so good. Even though we lost, I just feel so good.”

Lily Letchworth led the Wildcats with 31 assists and Anna Christenson had 17 digs to lead the defense.

Blue Springs' Maya Fergerson (21) and Ella Duchane (6) block a hit by Blue Springs South's Aubrey LaPour (18) in Tuesday's Dig Pink match at South. Blue Springs went on to prevail in three sets.