WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The 2013 Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team, sophomore middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu, Palo Alto, Calif., and sophomore setter/outside attacker Laiz Novaes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recently received academic honors from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
The team was named one of the 2013-2014 All-Academic Teams, and Baleilekutu and Novaes each received the NJCAA Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement.
“I am extremely proud of Laiz and Torika,” said Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann. “This is the culmination of a lot of work put in by these two players and everyone who supports their efforts as student-athletes.”
NJCAA officials recognize individual student-athletes for academic honors at three levels. Those who have a perfect 4.0 GPA (grade point average) receive the NJCAA Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence; those with a 3.8 to 3.99 receive the NJCAA Award for Superior Academic Achievement; and those with a 3.60 to 3.79 receive the NJCAA Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement. Baleilekutu’s GPA this past academic year was 3.63, and Novaes’ GPA was 3.77. Over 1,700 student-athletes met the requirements for individual academic honors this year, NJCAA officials said.
To receive All-Academic Team honors, team members must have achieved a team cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The Grizzlies had a GPA of 3.14 this past year.
“As a team, this group did a great job in the classroom,” Wiedemann said. “This honor is the result of a lot of hard work put in by our players and everyone who supports their efforts as student-athletes. Although awarded to the team, the honor is shared by our tremendous faculty who lead them, as well as the staff of the Advisement and Academic Coaching Center for Empowering Student Success (AACCESS) and the PAWS (Promoting Academic Success With Student-Athletes) Program, who work together with our players to make them the best students possible. They do a fantastic job!”
Implemented in spring 2002, Missouri State-West Plains’ PAWS Program consists of a group of students, faculty and staff who are dedicated to helping student-athletes develop the skills they need to excel in the classroom and provides additional assistance to student-athletes during study hall periods.
Baleilekutu and Novaes are the Grizzlies’ 15th and 16th individual academic award honorees, and the team earned its 10th academic team honor in 11 years with its combined grade point average this past year.
Baleilekutu and Novaes both graduated from Missouri State-West Plains in May with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degrees. Baleilekutu is transferring to University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., this fall, and Novaes is taking her talents to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, N.Y., this fall.