North Platte volleyball repeats as KCI tournament champions

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte players and coaches celebrate with the KCI Conference Tournament championship plaque on Saturday, Aug. 29 at Plattsburg High School in Plattsburg, Mo. PLATTSBURG, Mo. — North Platte and West Platte received two more chances to continue their back-and-forth recent rivalry with more matchups this season likely.

The rivals met in pool play and then the championship match of the KCI Conference Tournament held Saturday, Aug. 29 at Plattsburg High School. North Platte won both meetings in straight sets on the way to defending last year’s tournament title.

However, West Platte later went on to ruin the Panthers’ shot at a league sweep, grabbing the regular season crown on the final day of the regular season.

“It’s a good rivalry,” first-year West Platte coach Alysa Pfleiderer said. “I’m new so it’s my first time experiencing it. If it’s always that intense and that close I look forward to the next time we play them 100 percent. I think it will always be like that.”

North Platte won each of the first three sets with West Platte by the minimum two points, taking the first match 25-23, 28-26 and opening the championship with a 26-24 win. That included a run of three straight points after facing set point in the opener. The Panthers were then dominant in sealing the title, running away to a 25-12 win.

“They were excited,” North Platte coach Scott McInnis said of the difference in his team’s play with a chuckle. “That’s what that comes down to. The first one, they weren’t as fired up, but that second one, they got excited and I think they got West Platte on their heels a little bit. We came out on top, which is nice. I’m hoping we can carry this on for a while.”

Katie Heese led the way for North Platte with a strong all-around performance, tallying team-highs in kills (42), digs (38) and blocks (six) in five matches. The Panthers also swept Plattsburg and Hamilton in pool play but needed a third set to knock off Mid-Buchanan 25-19, 18-25, 25-12 in the semifinals.

Heese and fellow senior Brittany Gerling each tallied five kills in the championship match while Holly Sanders led the way with six.

“It was non-stop,” Heese said. “No one ever gave up. We always fight. We believed in one another and without that we wouldn’t have been able to do it. We were crazy. It was fun.”

West Platte outside hitter Patti Callahan helped the Bluejays reach the final with a dominant display against East Buchanan in the other semifinal. The senior outside hitter had a run of nine straight service points in one set, including three aces.

West Platte 2, Orrick 0

WESTON, Mo. — The Bluejays recovered quickly from a season-opening loss, flashing the potential of their jump-serve game Thursday, Aug. 27 at West Platte High School.

Despite a slow start to both sets, West Platte swept away the Bearcats with 12 total aces — three from Alexa Raney in the opener and four from Jordan Schultz in the decider during big comeback runs. All players for West Platte utilize the jump serve under Pfleiderer, a weapon that seeks to put pressure on the opponent and fuel the Bluejays’ quick attack offense.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo West Platte junior outside hitter Jordan Schultz jumps for a spike during a match with Orrick on Thursday, Aug. 27 at West Platte High School in Weston, Mo.

Callahan led West Platte with seven kills, while Gretchen Hiatt added six. Schultz finished with four kills in a balanced offensive showing, two days after Savannah beat the Bluejays in straight sets to open the season.

“We knew Savannah was going to be hard, but I felt like we did really, really good against Savannah,” Schultz said. “This game, we knew we were going to kill it just because of how good we played at Savannah, even though we lost.”

In the first set, Raney — a junior defensive specialist — recorded two aces during a during a run of six straight service points to put West Platte up 18-12 on the way to a 25-16 win. Orrick took a 7-2 lead in the second set to prompt a timeout from Pfleiderer, and the Bluejays responded by slowly narrowing the gap, twice closing to within one.

Schultz put West Platte up for good with a string of seven straight service points to take a 20-15 lead. The Bluejays maintained the lead in a back-and-forth ending to the 25-20 finish.

“We do have a fast offense; it’s just running it consistently quick,” Pfleiderer said. “I think it’s always a work in progress, but I feel good. If they keep working like they have been, I think we’re going to see a lot of success this season.”

North Platte 2, South Holt 0

The Panthers won both sets 25-18 in their season opener Tuesday, Aug. 25 in Oregon, Mo. Kailey Pike recorded 16 assists from her setter spot with Heese leading the attack with eight kills. Emmie Lee (four), Gerling (three) and Maddie Lee (three) followed Heese in a balanced offensive effort.

Heese also led North Platte with seven digs.

Bishop LeBlond 2, North Platte 0

The Golden Eagles avenged last year’s loss to North Platte in a straight sets victory Thursday, Aug. 27 at Grace Gymnasium in St. Joseph, Mo.

Last year’s Class 2 District 16 champion, LeBlond cruised to the win behind 10 kills from Tyler Reid. Heese had eight kills for the Panthers, and Pike notched 17 assists. Emmie Lee recorded 10 digs.