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Archive for Sunday, September 7, 2008

Free State grad back for Invite

UCF’s Heppert has happy homecoming despite loss to Jayhawks

September 7, 2008

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Kansas University's Savannah Noyes spikes against Central Florida. The Jayhawks beat UCF in four sets Saturday at Horejsi Center.

Kansas University's Savannah Noyes spikes against Central Florida. The Jayhawks beat UCF in four sets Saturday at Horejsi Center.

Family Day at the Horejsi Center held an interesting twist during warm-ups for Kansas University's volleyball match Saturday afternoon.

The usual applause rained down as each Jayhawk was introduced with her family, of course.

But the loudest cheers during pregame ceremonies didn't go to any Jayhawk. They went to a player wearing a uniform from : Central Florida?

That's right. Strange as it sounds, the ovation was reserved for UCF senior Jenny Heppert, who had a homecoming of her own. Heppert, a Free State High graduate, made her first appearance on a volleyball court in Lawrence since playing for the Firebirds in 2004.

The Jayhawks still received the loudest postgame kudos, closing out the final contest of their Jayhawk Invitational in style, winning, 25-23, 25-10, 20-25, 25-17.

Heppert, whose UCF team took third in the four-team field, said the weekend was something she would cherish, despite Saturday's result.

"It was really fun, you know, to play in the gym I've watched people play in for so many years," Heppert said. "It was great just to be home and to see everyone. It's been a really good experience."

As a high school senior, Heppert received first-team all-Sunflower League and all-state-tournament honors with the Firebirds. Her career ended with a crushing state-tournament loss to cross-town rival Lawrence High, and she signed with the Knights two weeks later.

Central Florida (3-4) actually put the Invitational on its schedule so Heppert and junior Erin Campbell (from Kansas City, Mo.) could play one time in their hometown area.

Kansas coach Ray Bechard said Heppert had been on the Jayhawks' recruiting radar as a prep player, but UCF ended up as a better fit.

"She had an opportunity to really go help a program, where (at KU), maybe it would be more of a role-type situation," Bechard said. "So, she picked a great school, and we've been after them for a couple years to get her out here, and I'm sure it was good for her."

For Kansas (3-2), Saturday's victory came as a much-needed relief following a lackluster performance against No. 13 Oregon the previous evening. Freshman Allison Mayfield, sophomore Karina Garlington and senior Natalie Uhart all reached double-digit kills against the Knights.

KU placed second at its own tournament and will return to Horejsi on Tuesday night to face the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Match time is 7 p.m.

Central Florida, meanwhile, had one last pit stop to make before heading back to campus in Orlando.

"We're about to go to my house and have everyone over," Heppert said.

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