Frustrating weekend leads to changes for Grizzly Volleyball team

Sophomore right side attacker Tatjana Trifkovic digs a ball during a recent Grizzly Volleyball game at the West Plains Civic Center. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)
Sophomore right side attacker Tatjana Trifkovic digs a ball during a recent Grizzly Volleyball game at the West Plains Civic Center. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

West Plains, Mo. – Normally, going 0-4 at a tournament wouldn't be cause for optimism.

But Paula Wiedemann understands the dynamics a team must work through in order to compete mentally and physically at a high level, and she feels things are changing and moving in a positive direction for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team.

"Fixing team dynamics has to be something the players commit to because this is the key to their success," she said. "Talent only gets you so far. The things that create energy and flow on the court to make this team better has to be a priority.

"Every coach would love for this to happen at the beginning of the season, but there are teams that have to figure things out for themselves. Even if I see things early, some things cannot be forced. It has to work itself out through the team. And, when we play great teams game in and game out, it makes it hard to be patient," she added.

Wiedemann admitted it's odd to be in this position. "It is the weirdest place to be when you feel good about the direction you are moving and so frustrated that you are not there yet, all at the same time," she said. "We feel like there are so many pieces that are working well for us right now, but there are two or three things that, if we don't fix them, will keep us frustrated more often than not."

Results frustrating for Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are now 8-12 after competing in the Holiday Inn-South Broadway Tyler Junior College Invitational in Tyler, Texas, this past weekend. The two-day event proved to be as frustrating as it gets, as game after game slipped through the Grizzlies' fingers.

The Grizzlies dropped two five-set thrillers on Friday – one to No. 17 New Mexico Military Institute from Roswell 18-25, 25-20, 26-24, 17-25, 10-15 and the other to unranked College of Central Florida from Ocala 25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 23-25, 9-15.

Saturday, they lost to No. 7 Navarro College from Corsicana, Texas, 14-25, 15-25, 14-25 and the host team, ranked 13th, 25-19, 26-28, 22-25, 22-25.

"Our ability to play at a high level is there. The talent is there. It's a lack of trust and confidence when things are hard that's creating our frustration," Wiedemann said.

During the tournament, the players did a lot of soul searching as individuals and as a team, the coach said.

"They have been honest with each other, which is good. Now, they need to step up in their roles as players by becoming amazing teammates," Wiedemann said. "They are a good group together, but that isn't enough. They need to be amazing teammates for each other because there is no question about trust with those types of teams.

"Sometimes players develop into leadership roles as the season progresses, and we have been seeing some things within the past couple of weeks that we like," she added. "We have a core group who need to take ownership and lead a group who are willing to say, 'Where you go, I go.' We need everyone on board with each other and understanding how each one of them is important to this team.

"This is where we need to get better. There's no question about it now, and the direction I see us going, I'm excited about," Wiedemann said.

Trio continues to pace Grizzlies

Three players who have been pacing the Grizzlies for the past few weeks continued their team-leading performances at the tournament. Freshmen outside attackers Camilly Cristiny and Kelly Wiedemann and sophomore right side hitter Tatjana Trifkovic led the team in kills with 47, 45 and 45, respectively.

Kelly Wiedemann led the team in attacking percentage with .259, and Cristiny recorded a team-leading 52.5 points earned.

Trifkovic and Kelly Wiedemann were second and third in total digs with 52 and 40, respectively.

"Kelly, Milly and T have really stepped up and been a consistent force all around," the coach said. "Offensively, they are carrying us, and defensively, they are making a difference, especially T. She has come a long way as a complete player, and I'm really proud of her for working so hard and showing her teammates that you can get better at the hard stuff."

Freshman defensive specialist Kaleigh Breathitt also has been making an impact in recent games.

"Kaleigh has been stepping up for us at times, which we need," Coach Wiedemann said. "When she's in the game, she makes a difference for us. We need her to keep working to make herself someone we can't get off the floor. The more she grows her confidence and creates a feel with her teammates on the court, the better she will become.

Other statistical leaders for the tournament include freshman setter Julia Dunning, who had 172 assists; sophomore middle attacker Yileen Ng He, who had 10. 5 blocks; and sophomore libero Kamryn Artale, who had 81 digs.

Grizzlies face Warriors next

The Grizzlies will have a week to work on new rotations, substitutions and leadership roles before facing their next opponent, Indian Hills Community College, at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in Ottumwa, Iowa.

"This will be a huge district game for us," Coach Wiedemann said. "This is a team that no doubt will be in the district tournament. We need to learn how to be the best version of us, and that takes everyone committed to the trust and confidence that great teams have for each other."

For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team's website. For complete statistics of the games, visit the team's NJCAA page.