WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The 2017 Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team may be filled with freshmen, but they’re motivated to progress in many areas of the game as the season moves forward, according to Head Coach Paula Wiedemann.
“Our team is young, but talented, and our ability to learn to play at a high level will improve throughout the year, as long as we continue to work hard for each other,” said the coach, who is entering her ninth year at the helm of the Grizzlies. “I’m excited to see this team grow together and see what we can accomplish together.”
The Grizzlies, who entered their 25th season of competitive play ranked ninth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) preseason poll, will play their first home match of the season at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, when they host third-ranked Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs, at the West Plains Civic Center. The match will be preceded by the annual Grizzly Booster Club Fall Picnic at 5 p.m. in the civic center exhibit hall. Everyone is invited to attend both events, which will be free.
“I was extremely surprised by such a high preseason ranking, considering we did not have any returning players with court experience,” Wiedemann explained. “It shows the amount of respect our program has received over the years, which we are proud of. I am very mindful of all the things that go into a successful season, and I also know every year is a new group, regardless of what experience you have coming back. This is a first in my 21 seasons as a coach, to have a group completely made up of freshmen. It will be a constant learning process throughout the season.”
The Grizzlies return two redshirt players from last year’s squad – Kinli Simmons, a 5-foot, 8-inch setter from El Dorado Springs, and Elliotte Bourne, a 5-foot, 8-inch defensive specialist from Rolla.
“Kinli and Elliotte know very well what our team culture needs to be and will do a great job of leading our new freshmen,” Wiedemann said. “They understand what it takes to be successful and to compete at a high level day in and day out. That isn’t something players know coming in, so their ability to lead this group to that understanding is extremely valuable.”
Newcomers to the team include Grace Stumbaugh, a 6-foot, 1-inch middle attacker from Concordia; Kamryn Artale, a 5-foot, 5-inch defensive specialist from Springfield; Tatjana Trifkovic, a 6-foot right side/outside attacker from Belgrade, Serbia; Keziah Williams, a 6-foot, 1-inch middle attacker from Katy, Texas; Miriam Cardoner Soler, a 5-foot, 8-inch setter from Barcelona, Spain; Karolina Noszczyk, a 6-foot, 1-inch outside/right side attacker from Bedzin, Poland; Lakota “Koty” Cooper, a 6-foot, 1-inch outside attacker from Stella; Yileen Ng He, a 6-foot outside/right side attacker from Colon, Panama; and Alyssa Matherly, a 5-foot, 2-inch defensive specialist from Cabool.
“We have nine newcomers so the growth potential with this group is big,” Wiedemann said. “We will be a work in progress throughout the season and expect who we are at the end of the season to be very different than who we are at the beginning.”
As in past years, the Grizzlies’ schedule will be filled with some of the top junior college teams in the nation. “We have a tough schedule from the get go. We have 16 games versus teams ranked in the top 20 pre-season poll, with nine of those games being against teams in the top 10. We will see defending national champion Miami Dade College and runner up Iowa Western Community College, as well as Panola College, Polk State, Indian Hills Community College, Tyler Junior College and Palm Beach State, just to name a few. Our region competition is always tough, and I’m sure Mineral Area will be ready to defend their region championship from last year.”
Just as constant as the tough competition is for the Grizzlies each year, so is their support from the community, Wiedemann said. “Grizzly Volleyball wouldn’t be where we are without the support of the community. Our success over the years is a direct result of how much the community supports our program. It is something I never take for granted, and it’s one of the things that brought me to West Plains many years ago. Our players benefit in so many ways from the support they receive from their fans and the Grizzly Booster Club. The booster club works hard to provide our players with the means to compete at the highest level. Without their dedication to Grizzly Athletics, we would not have the program we do. This is a great community, and we are proud to represent it and to be a part of it,” she said.
MEET THE PLAYERS
• Kinli Simmons: “Kinli brings a lot to this team. Her leadership on and off the court, her work ethic and ability to make those around her better, are qualities that set her apart. She can play multiple positions, and she gives us stability on the court. Her role on this team is extremely important. We will continue to grow as a group because she will not settle for anything less,” Wiedemann said.
• Elliotte Bourne: “Elliotte had a good spring season for us. She became more consistent in her passing and defense, and we need her to continue to improve as the season progresses. She can make a difference in how this group grows on and off the court.” Wiedemann said.
• Grace Stumbaugh: “Grace is a diamond-in-the-rough kind of kid. She is relatively new to the game, but when you see her take a swing you wouldn’t know it. She has a heavy arm, and her growth potential in playing the game is huge. It will be fun watching her continue to improve,” the coach said.
• Kamryn Artale: “Kamryn is such a solid passer and defender who is still growing into her position. She uses her hands well and makes hard plays seem effortless at times. When she becomes more comfortable being in charge of defense and passing, we will continue to get better,” the coach said.
• Tatjana Trifkovic: “Tatjana can be a high energy player who will catch your attention when she is on the court. She has a strong arm and will be very good for us offensively. She wants the ball and can be a go-to hitter. Her improvement in confidence and communication will help her grow into a player who will be fun to watch,” the coach said.
• Keziah Williams: “Keziah is a long, athletic middle from Branson via Katy, Texas. She has the ability to play high above the net and be a presence on the floor. I am excited to watch her grow as a player because her potential is extremely high and she makes a difference on the court,” Wiedemann said.
• Miriam Cardoner Soler: “Miriam has the potential to be a very good setter as she continues to understand our system of play. As she gets stronger, she will be able to run the floor with more authority. Her improvement will definitely make us better as the season progresses,” Wiedemann said.
• Karolina Noszczyk: “Karolina has length, and when she gets to where she uses that length more efficiently, it will make a difference for our team. As she improves in our style of play, she will see her ability to be a presence on the floor increase,” the coach said.
Koty Cooper: “Koty has so much potential to become a really good six-rotation player. She comes from a small high school program, and as she develops the consistency that you have to play with at a high level, she will keep getting better and better,” the coach said.
Yileen Ng He: “Ng is athletic and has a good base of skills. As she improves her feel for the game and our system, she will become more of a presence for us on the court,” Wiedemann said.
Alyssa Matherly: “Alyssa strength has allowed her to overcome a major injury and be ready for this season. She works hard, and her willingness to get outside her comfort zone gives her the ability to continue to progress as a player,” Wiedemann said.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit www.wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/. For complete statistics of the Grizzlies’ games, visit http://www.njcaa.org/sports/wvball/2017-18/div1/teams/missouristateuniversitywestplains.
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