Some of the most memorable volleyball battles in recent years have been between Missouri State University-West Plains and Iowa Western Community College.
Fans are expecting another one Wednesday when the No. 14 Rievers from Council Bluffs come to West Plains to face the Grizzlies in a 6:30 p.m. contest at the West Plains Civic Center.
"We are lucky to continue to have a great opponent like Iowa Western as a home game," Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. "We've had some good battles with them over the years, and I expect the same tomorrow night."
Blue Dragon Invitational
This will be the fifth ranked team the Grizzlies have faced in a week after participating in the Blue Dragon Invitational Tournament Friday and Saturday at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.
At the time of the tournament, all four of their opponents were ranked in the top 10 of the NJCAA's Division I Women's Volleyball poll.
Friday, they fell to No. 10 Indian Hills Community College from Ottumwa, Iowa, 17-25, 22-25, 15-25 and No. 5 New Mexico Military Institute from Roswell 29-27, 10-25, 16-25, 25-20, 12-15.
Saturday, the Grizzlies defeated No. 7 Tyler Junior College from Tyler, Texas, 15-25, 25-22, 25-14, 23-25, 15-9 before losing to No. 2 Navarro College from Corsicana, Texas, 18-25, 21-25, 20-25.
In this week's poll, Navarro and New Mexico retained their rankings, but Indian Hills fell to No. 12 and Tyler dropped out.
"There's nothing easy about playing four of the top 10 teams," Wiedemann said. "What we find when we face a schedule like this is that we have to figure out how to play the game a certain way and control our controllables – energy, effort, movement, communication, attitude and presence on the floor.
"The things we give on the court determines how we play against a team," she added. "Against great teams we have to have good movement and good communication without the ball in order to create good team flow. Our ability to play with anyone is determined by how strong we move and how well we move around each other."
Flow was definitely lacking in the game against Indian Hills, Wiedemann said. "But we put better things together against New Mexico, and we beat a very talented Tyler team. We also played very well against Navarro, who is certainly deserving of their No. 2 ranking," she added. "Navarro is very good. They have been a difficult team for anyone to match up against so far this season."
Change in lineup
Part of the reason the Grizzlies played better Saturday was due to a change in the lineup that moved sophomore outside attacker Camilly Cristiny to the middle.
"We needed to have more offensive production out of the middle, and Milly was effective, especially against Tyler," Wiedemann said. "Our middles have to be involved. We have to create options on offense. We feel we can continue to get better the more our middles are involved."
The change also forced a different approach defensively. "We may have given up some defense with a smaller block, but our back-court defense did some very good things to get us into transition offense," the coach said. "We told the team you may not be doing exactly what you want to do, but you have to do what the team needs you to do for this to work."
The Grizzlies' statistical leaders for the tournament included sophomore outside attacker Kelly Wiedemann with 59 kills, four aces and 67 points earned; freshman setter Julieta Campana with 131 assists; freshman middle blocker Najla Bray with 9 blocks; and sophomore libero Emily Moore with 62 digs.
"Kelly continues to do good things and do them consistently," the coach said. "Once we get a few more players doing good things more consistently – which has improved, we will see better things happen for our team," the coach said.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including the full schedule, visit its website at https://www.msuwpgrizzlies.com/sports/wvball/index.