by Michael Smith
The importance of senior Adelyn Bybee cannot be understated for the Grain Valley volleyball team.
Not only is she a senior leader for the Eagles, she is their top kills leader and a strong server.
Late in the third set of the Class 4 District 7 semifinal match with St. Michael The Archangel Catholic, the Eagles suffered a heartbreaker as Bybee landed awkwardly on her right leg on a block attempt and injured her ankle.
In tears, the senior was writhing in pain, holding her right ankle as the St. Michael trainer was tending to her injury. She had to be helped to the sidelines as she was out for the rest of the game while getting an ice pack applied to her ankle.
St. Micahel went up 24-22 on the play and eventually won the third set and went up 2-1 going into the fourth set. It was a moment the Eagles could have folded after an important piece to the team went down to injury. They did not as they fought hard, to force a fifth set, but the Guardians came up with key points down the stretch to end the Eagles season following a 25-14, 19-25, 24-26, 25-19, 13-15 loss Saturday at St. Michael The Archangel Catholic High School.
“It’s terrible for a senior, in potentially the last game, to go down,” Grain Valley head coach Tori Squiers said. “That was really hard and it hit a lot of girls' hearts. They wanted to do it for Addy. Everyone wanted it for themselves and the team.”
“Two girls came in and stepped up, Allison Schafer and Olivia Dickson and they did their jobs.”
Following the Bybee injury, Grain Valley battled back to tie the third set at 24-all after scoring the next two points, but an out-of-bounds serve by the Eagles and kill senior outside hitter Remi Covinski gave the Guardians the third set.
Grain Valley did not go away quietly, however. Late in the fourth set, the score was tied at 19-19, but behind the serving of junior setter Allison Koepkey, Grain Valley went on a 6-0 run to win the set 25-19. The spurt included an ace from Koepkey dropped just inside the back line.
In the absence of one of the best front line players, sophomore outside hitter Kayla Gallagher stepped up for the Eagles in a big way by accumulating a game-high 14 kills, including five in the fifth and deciding set. She had a kill and two aces that helped Grain Valley go on a 3-0 run that put it up 10-9.
“I am excited to have Kayla Gallagher for another two years,” Squiers said. “She’s really stepped up this year. Earlier in the season, she was voted as a team captain. She’s continued to surprise and hit expectations every single day. She has great potential for sure.”
However, St. Michael junior Lily Vanbebber led a comeback for the Guardians (26-5-1) as she got two critical kills down the stretch, including the game-winner that painted the back left corner of Grain Valley’s side of the court following a long rally, ending the Eagles season.
Grain Valley got strong performances from multiple players, including junior Izabella West, who had nine kills. She tied Bybee with four kills in the first set to help the Eagles win that one 25-14. She also had a team high three aces.
“She has the highest vertical on the team,” Squiers said of West. “She is just one of our best defensive players. She is all over the floor. She’s the fastest kid on the team. Her athletic ability is outstanding. The future is bright.”
Following the loss, the Eagles will say goodbye to four seniors, including Bybee, who will play volleyball at Baker University next year.
“I think this team was something special with energy and teamwork,” Squiers said. “We got along and that’s important.”
Grain Valley junior Isabella West had a strong performance with nine kills and three aces. Photo credit: Michael Smith
The Grain Valley volleyball team celebrates a point scored during a five-set loss to St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Saturday in the Class 4 District 7 tournament. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley sophomore Kayla Gallagher had a game-high 14 kills. Photo credit: Michael Smith