West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team kicked off its 2018 Region 16 campaign Tuesday evening with a solid three-set victory over Jefferson College from Hillsboro.
The 25-17, 25-16, 25-22 win ups the 17th-ranked Grizzlies' overall season record to 7-4.
Head Coach Paula Wiedemann was pleased with the win, but pointed out the Grizzlies still have some improvements to make.
"I felt like we played well the first couple of sets and controlled the game. But in the third set, it was a case of seeing how many missed serves and in-the-net calls we could get and still win, and it was a lot," she explained.
"When you're in those kinds of situations, you don't want to let those types of mistakes affect you. Things weren't pretty, but we handled it, and that's a positive," she said.
"Now, we have to focus on the details and become more consistent in areas where we cannot be up and down, like serving," she added. "We were really playing well defensively, but in the third set we didn't give ourselves a chance because of missed serves."
Defensive changes pay dividends
A couple of changes in the lineup on defense helped the Grizzlies turn in a better performance.
"We switched Kamryn (Artale) to left back for three rotations and Camilly (Cristiny) to middle back for three rotations. That's going to be a good switch for us," Wiedemann said. "We're versatile enough that we can switch things around defensively to help us keep the ball off the floor.
"We did a nice job, overall, defensively," the coach added. "We were solid with our blocking, which helped us control the game."
Artale, a sophomore libero, led the team in digs with 13, while sophomore middle attacker Yileen Ng He paced the Grizzlies at the net with three blocks.
Middles making strides on offense
Williams led the team in attacking percentage with .569.
"We have been working hard with our middles. We're getting more production, and our middles will need to continue to produce," the coach said, pointing out that He added six kills from the middle position.
"Kelly worked on being more aggressive, and she did some good things. She had some nice swings and wasn't predictable. She was hitting with power and making shots," the coach said.
For the team's newcomers, Tuesday's game gave them a better understanding of what to expect within the region as the season moves forward.
"The first region game is always big. You can tell your new players about the importance of these games, but they don't fully understand until they play in one. Now they have a better understanding of the region landscape and how we want to set ourselves up going into each region game and what it means going into the postseason," Coach Wiedemann said.
Kansas tournament up next
This weekend, all three Region 16 teams will compete in the Allen Samuels/Blue Dragon Volleyball Classic at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. Although the Grizzlies won't play Jefferson or14th-ranked Mineral Area College, they will have the opportunity to watch both teams compete.
"We will play Mineral Area next week as our second region game, and this gives us the opportunity to scout a little," Coach Wiedemann said.
The Hutchinson tournament will give the Grizzlies their second shot at No. 2 Iowa Western Community College from Council Bluffs. They will play the Reivers at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by Frank Phillips College from Borger, Texas, at 5.
Saturday, they will face No. 10 New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell at 11 a.m. and No. 8 Seward County Community College from Liberal, Kansas, at 3 p.m.
Coach Wiedemann thanked the staff at Don's Auto Service for sponsoring Tuesday's game against Jefferson, as well as the fans who attended the game.
"We had a really good crowd. The student section has been doing a great job creating a great atmosphere for our games," she said.