Lady ‘Cats have had talent at every position
During my time covering the Basehor-Linwood High School volleyball program, I've seen just about everything.
Early on I covered a team that had the talent to qualify for state but always seemed to run into powerful Lansing teams on the way.
After that, coaching changes hit the program in a major way. Three coaches in a four-year span stalled the development of the program, but today it appears to be on the rise once again.
Each coach brought great knowledge and tremendous passion to the game, paving the way for a bright future at BLHS.
While the teams I covered differed slightly from one year to the next, they all had that one ingredient that made attending their matches worthwhile. They always had fun.
Energy and enthusiasm were never in short supply with this program. By its very nature, volleyball is a game that gets you pumped up after every point -- win or lose.
When I began working here, I had not attended a single volleyball match in my life.
But today, thanks to some great athletes and a few wonderful coaches, volleyball is near the top of my list when it comes to sports I enjoy covering the most.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top five Basehor-Linwood volleyball players I've seen during my time with the Sentinel.
-- Class of 2002
McCarty was hands-down the most dominant hitter I have covered in my five years with the paper.
Although small in stature, the all-league performer packed a ferocious punch around the net.
As the team's top hitter for most of her career, she often faced defenses stacked to stuff her. But that didn't rattle her one bit. She simply kept swinging away and recorded more kills than just about any player in BLHS history.
McCarty was a solid all-around player and intense at times, but also played with a smile on her face. It was her ability to balance having fun with the intensity it took to perform at a high level that was probably her best attribute. For a while McCarty's lethal right arm caught opponents off guard, but even when they caught on they still found it tough to stop her.
-- Class of 2005
While McCarty was the most dominant hitter I have seen in a BLHS uniform, Kenney was hands down the hardest worker.
From the early days of her career through her senior season, in which she earned the school's female athlete of the year honor, Kenney worked tirelessly to become a top-notch volleyball player.
As the team's setter, she often worked harder than the other five players on the court combined.
She had great instincts, great knowledge of the game and wonderful vision. But even with those skills in her pocket, it was her work ethic that made her the player she was.
Kenney was the kind of player that opponents hated and respected at the same time. They hated her because she got to every ball, even the ones that were sure to fall. They respected her because of how hard she worked.
Beyond busting her tail in practice and giving it all she had during matches, Kenney sacrificed her body whenever necessary and often walked away with the battle scars to prove it.
-- Class of 2003
Often lost in the shadows of McCarty, Cunningham quietly turned in one heck of a career.
Cunningham was spectacular as the team's No. 2 hitter her junior season. When defenses set up to stop McCarty, Cunningham made them pay, lacing ball after ball down the line or to the deep corner.
As one of the team's most athletic players, Cunningham often kept plays alive with her instincts. The only thing that prevented her from becoming one of the best players in the area was her kind heart. Had Cunningham developed a mean streak on the court, she would have been one of the most feared hitters in school history.
As it was, she became one of the most underrated and most consistent. As a junior, she was second on the team in kills and attempts while committing the fewest errors.
-- Class of 2002
Any coach will tell you that it's great to have dominant players at the net, but most will follow that up by saying that the back row is the heart and soul of a volleyball team. Briana Barron was exactly that for the Lady Bobcats.
Although she stayed strictly in the back row, she made some of the biggest plays for the Lady 'Cats.
She was the ultimate hustler, diving for ball after ball, even if a teammate could get to it. And she was one of the team's best passers, as well. Her pinpoint passing made life easier on the BLHS setters and set the table for Cunningham and McCarty to blast away at the net. Baron also packed a wicked serve.
Although unheralded for most of her career, she was certainly a key cog in the Lady 'Cats' volleyball machine and without question one of the program's most consistent players.
-- Class of 2003
A handful of Basehor-Linwood hitters owe a ton of their success to Burnett. Burnett was the quiet, but steady influence on the floor. She rarely showed emotion and always seemed to play within herself, focusing more on getting the job done than being flashy.
She was a great setter but was also capable of swinging away.
As a junior she simply filled a role for the BLHS varsity squad. But by her senior year she had become a bona fide team leader and one of the better players in the league. She stepped up to the challenge of being a team leader and seemed to enjoy controlling the way the matches were played.