West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team made some major strides in team unity during its last road trip of the season. As a result, the Grizzlies picked up a major win over the No. 2 team in the nation.
The Grizzlies (14-15) defeated second-ranked Iowa Western Community College (IWCC) 25-21, 31-29, 22-25, 25-22 Friday in their final game at the Jefferson College Invitational in Hillsboro.
"This game is one of those games I can put in the top 20 during my time with Grizzly Volleyball," head coach Paula Wiedemann said. "The way we played across the board, the way both teams played, it was a great game."
The complete game the Grizzlies turned in against the Reivers is due, in part, to a newfound investment into the process by team members.
"There's been improvement in how everyone is going about doing their business," the coach explained. "Everyone feels like they're in it. They're doing what they're being asked to do to get things done. Everyone feels that, if they get called upon, they can do what is needed for this team."
Road trip begins at MAC
The road trip started Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Park Hills where the Grizzlies met No. 9 Mineral Area College (MAC) in a Region 16 contest. Despite an improved effort, the Grizzlies fell short 19-25, 23-25, 25-22, 20-25.
Next up was Jefferson College Thursday, Oct. 18, in the final Region 16 match-up of the regular season. After a horrible first set, the Grizzlies mustered up enough confidence to pick up an 18-25, 25-21, 32-30, 25-19 win.
"It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. We kept fighting instead of worrying about the things that weren't going right," Wiedemann said. "After that first set, we began developing a presence on the floor that carried us through that game and the next two games."
Those two games took place Friday and included a 25-12, 25-21, 25-16 win over Illinois Central College, as well as the victory over the Reivers.
"Friday's games had a different feel," the coach said. "Illinois Central is a well-coached team that hasn't been playing with consistency, and we took advantage of that. Our presence on the floor made a difference in how we played as a team, and we didn't back off against Iowa Western.
"The Illinois Central and Iowa Western games were two really good team wins. We continued to get production out of our two outsides, Kelly and Milly (freshmen Kelly Wiedemann and Camilly Cristiny), but everyone else stepped it up for us, too, which is huge," the coach said.
More players contribute to the wins
That was reflected in the statistics for the four games. More Grizzlies saw court time and contributed in positive ways.
"Ng has continued to produce both offensively and defensively," Coach Wiedemann said of sophomore middle attacker Yileen Ng He. "She has become more consistent and aggressive in her play. She was very good offensively against Mineral Area and Jefferson and also took some good swings against Iowa Western. Defensively, her presence at the net was huge against Iowa Western."
Ng He had 9 kills and a .471 attacking percentage against MAC, 10 kills and a .318 attacking percentage against Jefferson, and four blocks against IWCC.
Freshman right side hitter Gabriela Boneva "came in and did really well" against Jefferson, the coach said. Boneva recorded 9 kills in that contest. "Gabby gave us a spark, and I know she is ready to be called upon when we need her, which is important for her team."
Freshman defensive specialist Emily Moore came in all four games and provided "a different feel for the defense," Wiedemann said. "She communicates well, and there's a good trust factor with her. The team trusts her to keep the ball off the floor and take a swing from the back row if needed. Her serving rotation has been very effective for us. She has a very consistent, tough serve."
Moore had nine digs in both the Jefferson and Illinois Central games and 16 digs against IWCC.
Defense shines against IWCC
These personnel changes paid big dividends against the Reivers, especially on defense.
"We blocked well, we dug the ball well, there was great consistency," Wiedemann said. "Our blocking produced points and helped set us up to dig the way we did. It was crazy good. Anytime you dig 20-plus balls a set against a really good team, you are playing great team defense. It's one of those things that, as a coach, you watch and feel like the defense was effortless."
Regular season finale tonight
Wiedemann believes the team will continue building on what they accomplished last week during their regular season finale Tuesday against Missouri Community College Athletic Conference (MCCAC) rival St. Louis Community College at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the West Plains Civic Center and into the postseason, which begins Friday at the two-day Region 16 Championship Tournament in Park Hills.
"This team has kept trying to plug away to this point where they feel all in and that they're all on the same page, and we're feeling like that right now, more so than at any other time this season," Wiedemann said.
"This is all about team. They have something really good to build on as a team right now. We're not trying to figure out where we're going to produce points. We're confident that, if we play through it, they will come from somewhere," she added.
During Tuesday night's game, the team's sophomore members will be recognized for their contributions for the past two years.
And, the event will serve as the team's annual Pink Out Night 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" will be available for purchase at the game. The cost is $15 for youth through adult XL sizes and $18 for adult 2X and 3X sizes. For more information about the T-shirt fund raiser 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.
"This is a special night for a lot of different reasons," Wiedemann said. "We want to recognize our sophomores and the work they have put into our program, let our students know how much we appreciate their support, and raise money for our local Ozarks Medical Center Cancer Treatment Center, which makes such a difference for so many who need support in fighting this disease."