Star power: Kaminski fuels Wildcats to title past LaPour, Jaguars

By Bill Althaus
Blue Springs players Lily Letchworth, left, and Maya Fergerson (5) celebrate with teammates after defeating Blue Springs South in the Class 5 District 14 championship match Wednesday night. The Wildcats won in three sets to advance to Saturday's sectional playoff against Park Hill.

Two of the premier volleyball players in the area faced off Wednesday night at Blue Springs High School.

Chloe Kaminski and Blue Springs found the right mixture to defuse Aubrey LaPour and the Blue Springs South Jaguars in the Class 5 District 14 championship.

Kaminski, an all-state outside hitter who has verbally committed to Oklahoma, starred on both the front and back rows to lead the Wildcats to a 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 sweep to advance to Saturday’s Class 5 sectional playoff against Park Hill.

Blue Springs junior Chloe Kaminski, left, tries to tip the ball over the block attempt by Blue Springs South's Tamia McClunie (12) and Tori Valentine (14) in the Class 5 District 14 championship Wednesday. Kaminski and the Wildcats claimed the district title with a 3-0 win.

“Aubrey is a beast,” Blue Springs coach Katie Straka said after her Wildcats improved to 14-8, “and Chloe is one of those rare players – much like Aubrey – who make all her teammates that much better.

“This was a great night of volleyball, and I’m not saying that because we won. Aubrey did an amazing job for South and I thought our girls came out focused and ready to play and they never lost that focus throughout the three sets.”

Blue Springs South's Aubrey LaPour, left, tries to tip the ball past Blue Springs' Lily Letchworth (8) in their Class 5 District 14 championship match Wednesday. Blue Springs went on to a 3-0 victory.

South coach Mallori Perry, who played for Straka and was part of the Wildcats’ 2009 state runner-up squad, left the Wildcats’ gym with her head held high.

“I don’t think anyone expected our 7-13 team to make it this far – or, for that matter, reach this point of the season because of the COVID situation,” said Perry, who had a long embrace and visit with Straka after the match. “My girls did all I asked of them every match this season and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

She was especially proud of freshman Halle Shepherd, who replaced libero Charlee Huttinger when she suffered an upper body injury midway through the third game.

“I asked if any of our girls had an extra jersey, and Halle said she did, and she went in and played libero and did a great job,” Perry said. “That’s the type of team we had this season – these girls would do anything for me or for their teammates, and that’s a big reason I’m going to miss them so much.”

She’s especially going to miss LaPour, who will leave a legacy at Blue Springs South that would fill a record book.

“She’s a great, great player, a powerful player,” Perry said, “but I will miss Aubrey LaPour the person. She was always so much fun at practice, she just brought out the best in everyone.’

LaPour finished with a team-high 14 kills, and had back-to-back kills after Shepherd entered the game at libero.

Blue Springs South senior Aubrey LaPour (18) celebrates a point with teammates in their Class 5 District 14 championship match against rival Blue Springs Wednesday. The host Wildcats downed the Jaguars 3-0.

“Aubrey is the best – the best player and person,” said Kaminski, who had 11 kills for the Wildcats. “And she just hits the snot out of the ball. She is so powerful, no one wants to get hit by one of her shots – no one!”

After visiting with many teammates, friends and family members, LaPour managed to keep her composure and talk about her final match with the Jaguars.

“I hate to lose more than I enjoy winning,” LaPour said. “When we lose, I want to jump off a ledge, and tonight is the toughest loss because it’s my last match with all my girls and coaches.

“But I left it all on the court. We all left it all on the court, and that makes it a little bit easier. And Chloe and her teammates played great tonight.”

Blue Springs junior Chloe Kaminski celebrates after winning a point in Wednesday's Class 5 District 14 championship match against rival Blue Springs South. Kaminski and the Wildcats went on to a 3-0 win.

While Kaminski continued to star for Blue Springs, Lily Letchworth continued her postseason domination.

“Lily made digs, blocks, she distributed the ball, she hit the ball, she served the ball, she did it all tonight,” Straka said of her senior setter. “She had 31 assists and did a great job on the front and back rows.

“To beat a talented team like Mallori has this year you need a complete team effort, and that’s what we got.”

Letchworth said the Wildcats, who won their sixth straight match, are playing their best volleyball when it means the most.

“Everyone did their job tonight,” Letchworth said, “that’s how we were able to win in three sets. Aubrey brings so much energy for South that we better be ready to play, and we were tonight.”

Saturday’s sectionals and quarterfinal – at a site to be determined – will feature Blue Springs against Park Hill (17-7) and Lee’s Summit (21-5) against undefeated Liberty North (20-0). The winners meet in the quarterfinal later Saturday.

Blue Springs split its two Suburban Big Eight matches with Park Hill this season, with each team winning 3-1.