West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team showed improvements in some key areas during this past weekend's Colton's Steak House & Grill/Lazy W Pallets Grizzly Invitational Tournament.
The Grizzlies (11-14) garnered more production from their middle attackers and made defensive improvements that helped them go 2-2 in the two-day event at the West Plains Civic Center.
On Friday, the Grizzlies fell to No. 11 Tyler Junior College, Tyler, Texas, 19-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-25 and No. 13 Panola College, Carthage, Texas, 21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 12-15.
But they bounced back Saturday to defeat Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson, Kansas, 23-25, 25-21, 24-26, 25-13, 15-7 and Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa, Iowa, 19-25, 25-16, 25-20, 13-25, 15-11.
"The things we're trying to improve on, like offensive production out of our middles and their trust in how important they are to making us better, we started seeing some good things happen," Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said.
"We went into Saturday feeling better with what our middles were doing and with how our defense and blocking had improved. There was a different intensity across the board after the Panola game," she added.
Grizzlies play well against Panola
Despite the loss, Wiedemann believes the Grizzlies played well across the board against Panola. "They're a very good team. Their defense is excellent, and they make you stay in points. You can's afford not to be patient with teams like this, and I felt like we were, and that made a difference. We just needed to stay aggressive at the end when it mattered," she said.
"The loss to Panola was a loss you could build on, and that's what we did in the games against Hutch and Indian Hills. We had been waiting for that," she added.
Part of that was due to the play of freshman middle/right side attacker Monika Leon. Leon joined the lineup against Panola and continued to see playing time Saturday against Hutchinson and Indian Hills.
"Monika came in on Friday and gave us a spark," Wiedemann said. "It's something the team needed. "She came in and brought a great presence, and everyone responded to it."
Another Grizzly who saw playing time during the tournament was freshman defensive specialist Emily Moore.
"Emily came in and gave us consistency in serving. She's worked very hard during practice, and it's paid off in how effective she can be. She also dug some balls and stayed on the court for us defensively, which is needed," Wiedemann said.
Some struggles continue for Grizzlies on Saturday
Despite entering Saturday's games with a different intensity, the Grizzlies still had to fight off two very good teams and some of their own continued issues. After dropping a close first set to Hutchinson, the Grizzlies had to battle back to take the win in five.
"Against teams like Hutchinson, you have to win the close sets. We allowed them to finish that first set and put ourselves in a position where we had to outlast them. We don't want to do that. We need to get out of that rhythm and come out with more intensity," the coach said. "We have the opportunity to build on that. I feel like we're going to be able to do things a little differently than we have."
With two players back from injury, it was a different Indian Hills team the Grizzlies faced than the one they met Oct. 8 in Iowa.
"They came out and played well in that first set. They can get on such a roll," Wiedemann said. "We took control of the next two sets, but we gave them too many points early in the beginning of the fourth set, which is frustrating. But I'm proud that our players turned it around in the fifth. We stayed aggressive, and that was great to see."
Familiar names lead Grizzlies' attack
The Grizzlies' statistical leaders for the tournament included familiar names. Freshman outside attacker Kelly Wiedemann led the team in kills with 55, followed closely by freshman outside attacker Camilly Cristiny with 54 and sophomore right side attacker Tatjana Trifkovic with 43.
"It's great to see such consistent production against good teams," Coach Wiedemann said. "They've been holding down the fort, so to speak, and that's been huge for us."
Wiedemann also led in attacking percentage with .281 and in points earned with 62.5.
Freshman setter Julia Dunning led the team in assists with 201, and Cristiny led the team in service aces with four.
"We have been working hard on improving our blocking, defense and offensive production out of the middle. This weekend we saw improvements in all of those areas and in our ability to continue to improve on it," Coach Wiedemann said. "Our blocking was a big factor in our defense improving, and Kam was all over the place picking up balls on defense.
"This was a good tournament with good teams, and we love having good teams come in to play" the coach added.
Bringing in such talented teams is possible with tournament sponsors like Colton's Steak House & Grill and Lazy W Pallets, Coach Wiedemann said.
"We really appreciate the support they give our team and our tournament year in and year out," she said.
Final games include Pink Out
The Grizzlies will complete Region 16 regular season play this week. They will meet No. 5 Mineral Area College at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Park Hills and face Jefferson College at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Hillsboro. They also will compete in the Jefferson College Invitational Tournament Friday.
The team's last home game will be against Missouri Community College Athletic Conference (MCCAC) foe St. Louis Community College at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the civic center.
This also will be the Grizzlies annual Pink Out game to raise awareness of breast cancer and money for Ozarks Medical Center's Cancer Treatment Center. T-shirts with a pink ribbon and the words "No One Fights Alone" are currently on sale for $15 for youth through adult XL sizes and $18 for adult 2X and 3X sizes. For more information about the T-shirt fundraiser or to purchase T-shirts, contact Kileene Collins at 417-255-7255.
The Pink Out game is being sponsored by Community 1st Banking Company and Screenshots.