"It was an up-and-down weekend."
That's how Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann described her team's efforts at the Grizzly Invitational Tournament this past weekend.
The Grizzlies went 2-2 in the two-day event at the West Plains Civic Center. On Friday, the Grizzlies defeated Region 16 rival Jefferson College 14-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-21 but fell to the 10th ranked Indian Hills Community College Warriors 22-25, 17-25, 18-25.
Saturday, the Grizzlies Lost to Tyler Junior College 24-26, 18-25, 23-25 but bounced back to defeat Hutchinson Community College 10-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-18.
"I still feel we are building on the things that will continue to help us get better as a team," Wiedemann said. "From the beginning, we have talked about the constant effort it takes to create the chemistry and togetherness on the floor. We absolutely understand what it takes, and we have been putting more good things together.
"For us to be better, though, we have to make those things happen day after day in practice in order to see them happen day after day in games. It comes down to each player making it a priority to give everyone else what is needed to create that chemistry. If it's important enough to them, it will keep getting better," she added.
Attitude is everything
One area of the game is still hampering the Grizzlies' efforts on the floor – dealing with opponents who project strong attitudes.
"Not all opponents are as in-you-face as others," Wiedemann said. "Some are very vocal, and the confidence they play with and how they project it through the net is something we have to handle better. We have to learn how to respond in those situations and go back at them."
The team also is having to overcome injuries to freshman setter Julieta Campana and freshman right side/outside attacker Daniela Poles. Campana was injured during the Oct. 2 game against Mineral Area College, and Poles suffered her injury Saturday against Tyler.
"Dani's role had increased tremendously because of the injury to Juli," Wiedemann said. "She has come so far and was continuing to grow with this team. I'm hoping that it's something that won't be a long recovery process moving forward."
In 10 sets of action, Poles recorded 18 kills, one assist, two blocks, one ace, 31 digs and 21 points earned.
Dunning's new role
With Campana's injury, sophomore Julia Dunning returned to the setting position, which she played during her freshman season.
"Julia's willingness to continue to work to create the offensive production we need is great," Wiedemann said. "She transitioned from being a front row attacker who was earning some points for us to running our offense. She had a good week of practice in the setting position going into the tournament, and she played well, considering how much time she's put in."
Dunning recorded 136 assists, 11 kills, 4.5 blocks, six service aces and 21.5 points earned.
Even with Dunning's efforts, the Grizzlies only hit .189 for the tournament. "We have to take better care of the ball, offensively," Wiedemann noted. "We have had more attackers playing more efficiently, but it seemed like we would have one or two attackers giving up too many points in unforced errors in each game."
Sophomore outside attacker Kelly Wiedemann led the Grizzlies in offensive efficiency, hitting .294 for the tournament. She also recorded 48 kills, five assists, five blocks, one service ace, 45 digs and 54 points earned.
"Kelly continues to be that stabilizing force that we need. She is consistent, and it's rare not to get offensive and defensive production from her game to game," Coach Wiedemann said.
Other statistical leaders
Other statistical leaders included sophomore libero Emily Moore with 79 digs and sophomore outside/middle attacker Camilly Cristiny and freshman middle attacker Nayla Watkins each with six blocks. Three of Watkins' six blocks were solo blocks.
"Emily picked up a lot of digs this weekend," Coach Wiedemann said. "She has been more aggressive in practice, which we need. She averaged 5.69 digs per set, and when she's playing like that, we are a much better team."
The Grizzlies head north this week for their fourth game this season against Indian Hills. First serve is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Ottumwa, Iowa.
Coach Wiedemann thanked Colton's Steak House and Grill, Lazy W. Pallets, the City of West Plains and the West Plains Civic Center for sponsoring the Grizzly Invitational Tournament. "We have the best support for our tournament and appreciate those who help to make this such a great event," she said.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including the full schedule, visit its website at https://www.msuwpgrizzlies.com/sports/wvball/index.