West Plains, Mo. – The 17th-ranked Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team will need to regroup quickly from its 1-3 showing this past weekend at the Allen Samuels/Blue Dragon Volleyball Classic at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
The defending NJCAA Region 16 champion and current No. 14 team in the nation, the Mineral Area College (MAC) Cardinals from Park Hills, is coming to town for a 6:30 p.m. game Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the West Plains Civic Center arena. The contest is being sponsored by Lazy W Pallets.
Like the Grizzlies (8-7), MAC competed in the two-day Kansas tournament, but they recorded 3-1 record at the event. They picked up wins over No. 9 Tyler (Texas) Community College, No. 10 New Mexico Military Institute from Roswell and the hosting Blue Dragons. Their one loss came at the hands of No. 8 Seward County Community College from Liberal, Kansas.
"They're coming in here with a good team that's ready to defend their place in the region, and we have to be ready for that," Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. "We have to get some things done and be ready to play a tough region game.
"We're working to put ourselves in the right position going into the post-season, and that started last week against Jefferson. It's going to be a big game moving forward," she added.
First day tournament woes
With so much on the line, the Grizzlies will need to avoid a repeat of their performance last Friday during the first day of the tournament. In an effort that baffled their coaches, the Grizzlies fell to Hutchinson 19-25, 25-19, 23-25, 20-25 in their first game at the event.
"It's the first time we've seen such a bad performance out of our group," Wiedemann said. "With the way we've been playing, we did not expect to see that. It was frustrating."
Several players seem to struggle with consistency and aggressiveness against the Blue Dragons, who became the Grizzlies' first opponent after a last-minute scheduling change.
The Grizzlies were originally scheduled to face No. 2 Iowa Western Community College from Council Bluffs first, but a team dropped out of the tournament, which resulted in the switch.
But Wiedemann doesn't believe changing opponents led to the poor showing. "I keep talking about the mental, the physical and the skill development aspects of the game. You cannot just think that skill development will get you where you need to be. You have to mindfully go about what you're doing to make progress. The focus that's needed any time we step on the court has to improve. We've got to commit to the mental aspect of what it means to not let pressure dictate how we're playing," she said.
Grizzlies come up short again vs. IWCC
The Grizzlies did eventually meet Iowa Western Friday. Unfortunately, they couldn't convert enough positives into a win and dropped their second game of the year to the Reivers 11-25, 21-25, 19-25.
"We started doing some better things after the first set against Iowa Western. We started getting into that fighting mentality. But you can't pick and choose when you're going to fight. You have to continue working on developing toughness, and that starts in practice," the coach explained.
Better effort on Saturday
Saturday's effort by the Grizzlies was much better. They defeated New Mexico 25-22, 25-17, 16-25, 25-21 but lost to Seward 15-25, 25-8, 21-25, 21-25.
"Saturday was a different day. We really played well against New Mexico and had a log of good things happening against a very good Seward County team, but we just didn't finish sets three and four the way we needed to," Wiedemann said.
Wiedemann, Trifkovic shine
"Against both of these ranked teams, these two really came to play. Their attitude and what they were bringing really lifted up the team, then everyone really began playing better," the coach said.
Kelly Wiedemann recorded 12 kills against New Mexico and 16 against Seward and hit .481 against Seward. Trifkovic recorded six kills against New Mexico and 11 against Seward.
"Kelly was phenomenal Saturday in her aggressiveness, her communication and putting herself in the right position to do something. Her court presence and feel for the game were really great to see," Coach Wiedemann said.
"They both had that aggressiveness that makes your team play better," the coach added. "Now, everyone needs to bring that. All of them need to bring it every day – in practice and in games.
"When you show you care about what's happening on the floor, it makes a difference in what your teammates are willing to do for you. Being a great teammate makes everyone around you better," she explained.
"Our confidence in our performance will be better if they commit to these things," she said.
For the tournament, Kelly Wiedemann led the team in kills (40), service aces (eight) and points earned (52). Trifkovic followed with 29 kills and 34 points earned. Freshman setter Julia Dunning recorded 125 assists.