The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team will see if it can keep its current winning streak alive Tuesday, Sept. 10, when it hosts its season home opener.
The Grizzlies (3-6) will play No. 13 Indian Hills Community College from Ottumwa, Iowa, at 6:30 p.m. in the West Plains Civic Center arena. Admission will be free.
The Grizzlies enter the contest having won their last two games this past weekend in the Starr Corporation Invitational at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) in Twin Falls.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies downed Laramie County Community College, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 15-12, then upset the No. 14 Golden Eagles 25-20, 27-25, 25-22.
On Friday, the first day of the tournament, the Grizzlies fell to Utah State University Eastern from Price 14-25, 20-25, 24-26 and lost to No. 7 Snow College, Epharim, Utah, 25-15, 22-25, 18-25, 18-25.
"CSI was a great host," Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said, pointing out this was the first time the Grizzlies participated in the event.
"The competition in the tournament, the hospitality from everyone in their athletic department, and the appreciation they showed us for being a part of their tournament was outstanding. They are a class act program with a lot of good people," she added.
Despite the warm welcome, the Grizzlies started the tournament Friday struggling to find their footing against Utah State Eastern and Snow.
"Both of Friday's teams are part of the same Scenic West conference CSI and Salt Lake (Community College) are in. Utah State Eastern is playing the best volleyball out of all those teams right now. It will be interesting to watch how their conference season progresses," Wiedemann said.
Wiedemann credits the Grizzlies' turnaround on Saturday to a change in the lineup.
"We switched some things around to see if they could create a feel on the court where everyone flows around each other," she explained. "It took a couple of sets, but things started to look different. Chemistry on the court is so important because it makes you feel like you can fight through things together. That's what they were creating."
And, it resulted in the five-set win over Laramie and a straight-set decision over CSI.
"Game wise, our passing improved as a whole during this tournament compared to our first weekend. There was more consistency," the coach said. "And, our defensive production in our last two games was much better. Once we found some chemistry on the court, we were able to work through things more comfortably and our defense was able to make better adjustments."
This was evident in the passing game. As the primary passers began to develop more chemistry, their consistency became a big factor in the wins. Sophomore outside attacker Kelly Wiedemann led the way in passing rating with a 2.49 out of 3.0. Freshman outside hitter Maju Loureiro followed with a 2.35, and sophomore libero Emily Moore posted a 2.33 rating.
Moore led the way in digs with 59, followed by Wiedemann with 44, Loureiro with 37 and freshman setter Julieta Campana with 35.
Offensively, the Grizzlies were led by Kelly Wiedemann who had 69 kills, followed by Loureiro with 45. Campana led the Grizzlies in assists with 126. Moore recorded seven service aces, and Wiedemann had 75 points earned.
"Offensively, the mentality that you have to have is aggressive but patient, which sounds counterproductive," Coach Wiedemann said. "You have to have an aggressive mindset in your movement and communication and patience in knowing that you have to take good swings so you won't give up points.
"Kelly had a 'give-me-the-ball' mentality in all six rotations, and that is huge," the coach explained. "She had a lot of great swings out of the back row in key moments and was consistent game to game.
"Maju played very well and got better throughout the weekend. She gave us a bunch of huge swings and has become more patient in what she is doing with the ball," Coach Wiedemann said. "Julia (Dunning) gave us a spark on Saturday and had some big kills against Laramie and CSI."
Trip begins in Utah
The Grizzlies started their road trip last week with a stop Wednesday at No. 9 Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although they fought hard, they dropped a heart-breaker 11-25, 25-22, 22-25, 27-25, 15-17.
"I felt like we played a good game against Salt Lake. We just did not take advantage of finishing them off when we should have," the coach said. "Milly was on fire through the first four-and-a-half sets, which kept us in it. We didn't take advantage of finishing the third set and made too many mistakes in the fifth set because we didn't state patient enough and tried to force things. It was a good feeling to play well, but frustrating because we didn't finish them off."
Sophomore outside attacker Camilly Cristiny led the offensive charge with 21 kills and 24 points earned. Bray was most effective at the net, hitting .500. Campana led the team in assists with 49, and Wiedemann had a passing rating of 2.35.
Defensively Bray led with seven blocks, and Moore recorded 22 digs.
"Najla came alive in this game," Coach Wiedemann said. "It will be good when she can put these types of games together.
Coach Wiedemann believes a lot of good things came out of the trip. "We grew as a team, and the ability to continue to grow is there. This is what we've been waiting for them to do. You have to find a way to make everyone on the court around you better, regardless of what you are doing yourself. We feel like we put some things together and were in the fight together."
Come early for the Grizzly Booster Club Fall Picnic
Wiedemann encouraged fans to come early at 5 p.m. Tuesday and enjoy the annual Grizzly Booster Club Fall Picnic in the civic center's exhibit hall.
Considered the official start to the Grizzly Athletics season, this free event will feature team updates from Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp and Grizzly Cheer Team Coach Jason Harrill.
In addition, the first 300 attendees can enjoy a complimentary meal provided by Southern Bank.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including the full schedule, visit its website at https://www.msuwpgrizzlies.com/sports/wvball/index.