Kayleigh Jenkins' return bolsters Blue Springs volleyball in opener

Bill Althaus
The Examiner/USA Today Network

Kayleigh Jenkins couldn't believe the electricity inside the Blue Springs High School gymnasium Monday night. 

"It was so loud, and so cool," said Jenkins, a junior middle hitter who recorded 14 kills in Blue Springs' 3-1 victory over Park Hill South in its season opener that was played in front of a packed crowd that filled one side of the bleachers in the gym. 

"Last year, we didn't have that many people and it was never very loud. But tonight? It was crazy loud – and their JV team made it fun as they were trying to be as loud as our student section. 

Blue Springs junior Kayleigh Jenkins knocks down a kill in Monday's season-opening match against Park Hill South. Jenkins, who missed last season with a broken ankle, totaled 14 kills in her return to the volleyball court in a 3-1 victory.

"It's just great to be playing volleyball again." 

Many Wildcat fans might think of Jenkins as one of the premier sprinters in the area as she starred for the third-place state Wildcats track and field team last year. She earned three all-state medals in the 100 meters and the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, both of which she anchored. 

"She is just an amazing athlete and an amazing young lady," said Blue Springs boys track and field coach Joe Cusack, who was at Monday’s match to support Jenkins and her teammates. "I can't imagine what she could have accomplished last year if she hadn't broken her ankle." 

Blue Springs players celebrate after defeating Park Hill South 3-1 in Monday's season and home opener.

Last summer, Jenkins had an accident on the court in which she stepped on a volleyball, broke her right ankle and needed surgery. 

"She's an amazing athlete and an amazing volleyball player," said senior outside hitter Chloe Kaminski, a two-time all-state selection. "I watch her and think to myself, 'She's that good, and she only plays three months a year?' She has so much athletic ability and we missed her last year when she broke her ankle." 

That injury is one reason this season means so much to Jenkins. 

"I'm a three-sport athlete, and my favorite sport is the one I'm playing at the time – so now, it's volleyball," Jenkins said, grinning. "Last year was awful. We had all the COVID protocol we had to deal with, I had to sit out the entire volleyball season and half of basketball, but the girls on those teams and, of course, our coaches were great and kept supporting me. 

Blue Springs junior Kayleigh Jenkins celebrates after winning a point with a kill in Monday's season-opening match against Park Hill South. Jenkins, who missed last season with a broken ankle, totaled 14 kills in her return to the volleyball court in a 3-1 victory.

"And tonight, a big win in front of a packed crowd. This was just amazing." 

The Wildcats and Panthers split two sets last week in abbreviated matched at the Blue Springs South Jamboree. On Monday, the Wildcats overcame a 25-23 loss in the first set to sweep the next three 25-17, 25-20 and 25-19 

"We didn't really get much of an opportunity to get into a groove (in the jamboree) because both sets were just to 15 points," said Kaminski, who led the Wildcats with 23 digs. "I thought it would be close tonight and it was. I'm just so happy we have Kayleigh back because she can be a difference maker." 

Blue Springs junior outside hitter Maya Fergerson (11) powers a spike past Park Hill South defender Gwyneth Walters (7) in Monday's season opener. Fergerson knocked down a team-high 17 kills to help the Wildcats to a 3-1 victory.

So can junior outside hitter Maya Fergerson, who led the Wildcats with 17 kills. 

"It's so great to be back, and to have our fans back," Fergerson said. "Tonight was just amazing. From the moment we stepped on the court, with all our fans screaming and their (JV team) screaming, it was electric. And we won, which makes it even better." 

Coach Katie Straka thought her team looked in midseason form. 

"We really played well. That did not look like a first match of the season by either team," Straka said. "Our girls are so close, and they hold each other accountable, but they really have not had to do that so far, because they are working so hard and doing everything we're asking of them." 

When asked about the return of Jenkins, she smiled. 

"She plays volleyball, basketball and runs track and is great in each sport," Straka said. "I keep watching her out on the court and wait for that deer-in-the-headlights moment, and it never comes. She is so athletic, she just keeps playing as well as someone who plays year-round. 

"Needless to say, we're thrilled to have her back." 

Blue Springs' Ella Duchane (6) and Maya Fergerson (11) block a shot by Park Hill South's Isabel Day (2) for a point in Monday's season opener. The host Wildcats rallied from a first-set loss to claim a 3-1 win.