by Michael Smith
Grain Valley head volleyball coach Tori Squiers noted that the schedule would be much tougher for her Eagles in 2022.
That is exactly the way she wants it.
That’s because playing tougher opponents will help the team better prepare for the teams Grain Valley will face in the playoffs, Squiers said. The Eagles got a taste of that tougher competition Thursday against Blue Springs South.
The Eagles played the Jaguars tough in three out of four sets, but fell 25-20, 25-11, 21-25 25-21.
“I just told the girls that I am so proud because tonight was a huge transition for us,” Squiers said. “After the second set, typically from the last few games, we have been shutting down after a loss. The fact that we came back and won the third set was a huge deal.”
South led for most of the first set. After Grain Valley took a 7-6 advantage, the Jaguars went on a 12-2 spurt to take a 18-9 lead. The Eagles stormed back behind the serving of junior setter Allison Koepkey and sophomore outside hitter Kayla Gallagher and narrowed the gap to 19-18 following a 9-1 run. A pair of blocks and a pair of kills helped South withstand the Grain Valley comeback as it took the first set 25-20.
The Jaguars dominated the second set and led by as many as 12 points following back-to-back kills from Valentine and Krebs that made it 21-9. Five different South players got at least one kill in the set as it outscored Grain Valley 25-11.
Even down two sets, the Eagles would not go away quietly. The combination of Gallagher and freshman Kyleigh Casey, who is listed on the junior varsity roster, totaled 11 kills in the set to help their team force a fourth set following a 25-21 victory. After South took a 1-0 lead, Grain Valley came back to lead 2-1 and never trailed for the rest of the set.
“Kyleigh has brought a lot to the team and brings that young energy that is a lot of fun for the upperclassmen girls, too,” Squiers said. “It brings the fans in, as well.”
“Kayla has made a huge transition being the sixth rotational player for the team. She is one of our captains. She was voted to be one by the team. She’s brought a lot to us with her playing ability and energy, as well.”
After Grain Valley took a 2-0 lead, South ran away with it and went on a 15-6 run from there to make it 15-8. Grain Valley got as close as three points after a kill from Casey made it 19-16. South outscored Grain Valley 6-5 the rest of the way with Tunley closing the match out with a kill.
“I am super pleased, we kept it close in every game with South, which is something we have not been able to do in the past,” Squiers said. “I think being able to play against a big school like that is a big deal.”
Gallagher ended up having a strong performance for the 3-3 Eagles as she had a match-high 15 kills. Senior Adelyn Bybee added eight and chipped in with six.
The Grain Valley volleyball team celebrates winning the third set in a match against Blue Springs South. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley sophomore Kayla Gallagher prepares for the serve. Photo credit: Michael Smith