Natalie Gieseke looked around the locker room at Blue Springs High School and smiled, despite the tears that were streaming down her face.

Natalie Gieseke looked around the locker room at Blue Springs High School and smiled, despite the tears that were streaming down her face.
“I just told all the girls that I wouldn’t want to play with anyone but them,” said Gieseke, a senior setter whose Blue Springs South volleyball career came to a disappointing end Tuesday night following a 25-17, 25-17 loss to St. Teresa’s Academy in the Class 4 District 14 semifinals.
“We all played so hard tonight. Even though we lost, it feels good – because we left it all out on the court. I’m proud of this team and I’m coming back tomorrow night because it’s going to be a great championship match.”
The Stars will take on coach Katie Grusing’s Blue Springs squad that walloped Raytown South 25-13, 25-7 in the other semifinal match Tuesday on the Wildcats’ home court.
Blue Springs senior Mallori Fournier began each game against the Cardinals by serving seven consecutive points – including three consecutive aces in the first game – to pave the way to today’s 6 p.m. championship match against the Stars.
“Mallori has been doing that all season for us,” said Grusing, whose team improved to 30-4. “She can serve deep, she can serve short, she can serve with a quick tempo or a slow tempo – and she’s steady.
“The girls have a lot of confidence when she’s back there (serving).”
While Fournier was starring on the back row, reliable Lisa Henning and Kirsten Erikson were dominating on the front row.
“When Lisa and Kirsten play like they did tonight, it’s just so much fun,” Grusing said. “All the girls played well. This was a team we thought we could beat and we came out and played the match we hoped to play.
“Now, we have to carry that into tomorrow night.”
Henning had six kills in the first game – and finished with eight – to set the tempo early. Erikson finished with a team-high nine kills to give the Wildcats a world of confidence heading into the district championship.
“I think it was important for us to come out and show what type of a team we have,” Erikson said. “We want to play at our pace, at our level, and we did that tonight.
“Mallori got everything going with her serves in both games and we played a great overall match. We can hardly wait for the championship.”
When asked about her success on the back line, Fournier said, “I think serving is what I really bring to the team. We played at an extremely high level tonight, and I think we’ll play at an extremely high level in the championship.
“Everyone is really playing well right now and we’re excited to be in the championship.”
Although they won’t be playing in the championship, Blue Springs South coach Carmen Johnson was proud of her 15-18 Jaguars.
“I think we could have won,” Johnson said after an emotional post-match meeting with her team, “but sometimes you play really well and the other team plays a little bit better.
“Natalie and Taylor (Harris, two seniors) were just outstanding tonight. What a great way for them to go out – they were inspirational. And the girls played well. We had a couple of rallies that left the fans on both sides of the gym standing and applauding. That tells you what kind of a match it was.”
Sophomore Carly Sojka led the Jaguars with five kills and freshman Julia Towler added four.