Grizzlies defeat Vikings 3-1 in key region contest

Players are standing behind a volleyball net.
Middle attacker Nayla Watkins (No. 10) and sophomore setter/outside attacker Julia Dunning (No. 7) prepare for an opponent's serve at a recent home game. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team upped its record to 5-7 after defeating the Jefferson College Vikings Tuesday evening in a key Region 16 contest.

The Grizzlies bounced back from a rough start to post a 23-25, 25-12, 25-22, 25-15 win over the team from Hillsboro. The victory also gave the Grizzlies a 2-0 record in the Missouri Community College Athletic Conference (MCCAC) standings.

"Any region win is important, but understanding how we need to continue to get better, regardless of who is on the court, is important, too," Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. "We were not happy with how we started this game.

First set frustrations

The Grizzlies had a 3-point advantage over the Vikings midway through the first set, but errors at key moments allowed the Vikings to come back and take the set.

"The points we gave up, it was frustrating," Wiedemann noted. "There was a lack of urgency in that first set. We were doing some good things, but we weren't valuing the points we were giving away. Those are important points. You can't give them away like that."

In the second set, the Grizzlies took control early and never looked back. The third set proved to be a more nip-and-tuck contest, but the Grizzlies carried momentum into the fourth set to seal the win.

"We were pleased with our response after the first set, but you don't want to put yourselves into a bad position," Wiedemann said. "Against the competition we play, we can't decide when to play with urgency. It has to be constant. It doesn't just happen. It's created, it's intentional."

Areas of improvement

Despite the rough start, Wiedemann said she did see improvement in several areas. "More people stepped up and contributed, our blocking as a whole improved and led us to playing better defense, and we dug the ball well because we were more solid in front of their attackers. There were positives there," she said.

Wiedemann also praised the play of sophomore setter/outside hitter Julia Dunning and freshman defensive specialist Allie Hall.

"Julia is finding ways to make herself valuable for us, and she's putting herself on the court as a result," the coach said. "Allie came in and did a great job for us defensively. She had 16 digs. She's been improving in practice, and I think her production will continue to improve, as well."

Wiedemann also noted the offensive efforts of freshman middles Nijla Bray and Nayla Watkins, who recorded four and six kills, respectively. "They got more involved on offense and had some really nice blocks," the coach said.

Statistical leaders for the night were sophomore outside hitter Kelly Wiedemann, who had 21 kills and 25 points earned; freshman setter Julieta Campana with 44 assists; sophomore libero Emily Moore with 22 digs and a 2.59 passing rating; and Watkins with 4.5 blocks.

"Kelly was aggressive, all over the court. Even though she had a lot of balls that were dug, she continued to put us in a good position because of the good swings she was taking. It kept them out of system more often and allowed us to pick up the ball and transition again," Coach Wiedemann said.

On the road this weekend

The Grizzlies return to the road this weekend to compete in the Blue Dragon Invitational Tournament hosted by Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.

They will have their hands full. All four of their opponents in the two-day tournament are ranked in the top 10 of the NJCAA's Division I Women's Volleyball poll this week.

Friday, they will face No. 10 Indian Hills Community College from Ottumwa, Iowa, at 11 a.m. and No. 5 New Mexico Military Institute from Roswell at 3 p.m.

Saturday, the Grizzlies will take on No. 7 Tyler Junior College from Tyler, Texas, then close out the tournament against No. 2 Navarro College from Corsicana, Texas.

"New Mexico is the only unknown, we've seen all the others," Coach Wiedemann said of their opponents. "We have to ask ourselves what do we have to do to keep ourselves in the game, and that is the urgency we talk about all of the time. Our job is to practice it day in and day out, not every now and then. It takes a commitment to be that type of team."

For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including the full schedule, visit its website at https://www.msuwpgrizzlies.com/sports/wvball/index.