WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Officials at Missouri State University-West Plains inducted former Grizzly Volleyball standout Patricia “Pati” Gandolfo (2006-08) to the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame during the annual Grizzly Volleyball Alumni Game Saturday, Aug. 19, at the West Plains Civic Center.
Grizzly Volleyball fans and alumni and Missouri State University-West Plains students, faculty and staff were on hand for the ceremony, which took place prior to the game. A “meet-and-greet” reception for Gandolfo was held immediately after the game in the civic center Dogwood Room.
“This is a special moment for our program and our players,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said during the ceremony. “Pati connected with people. She was fun to be around, and her teammates loved to be around her. She made connections here that will last a lifetime. I’m proud of the fact that, like our other alumni, this place means something to her.”
Gandolfo had the size and the skills to be an impact player for the Grizzly Volleyball team when she arrived from Porto Alegre, Brazil, in fall 2006, but what made her one of the program’s great players was her consistency and her ability to connect with her teammates. At 6 feet, 2 inches, she was a presence on the front row, but she also was skilled enough to consistently be a solid passer and defender on the back row. Her ability to adapt as an attacker was a huge strength, and her blocking just added to it. But even more valuable than the way she played the game was her ability to connect with her teammates and others. Her personality became a part of the team’s personality. She gave her teammates and the team a fun – but competitive, determined – but not too serious, feel.
Gandolfo quickly made her presence known during her freshman season in 2006. She earned all-tournament team honors at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Invitational with a team-leading 67 kills, .361 attacking percentage, 60 digs and 78 points earned. It was the first of many accolades she would receive over the next two seasons.
Her MVP performance at the First National Bank Grizzly Invitational, where she recorded 58 kills, a .393 attacking percentage, 21 blocks, seven aces and 87 points earned, garnered her Player of the Week recognition from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). And, her composure under pressure, such as during the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship Tournament where she helped guide the Grizzlies to a third-place finish on their home court in 2006 earned her all-tournament team honors on that national stage.
The 2007 season brought more than its share of ups and downs for the Grizzlies as they struggled through a series of injuries, but Gandolfo showed her teammates they could count on her, no matter what. She set the tone in 2007 with an all-tournament team performance at the season-opening Iowa Western Community College Invitational, where she recorded 57 kills and a .422 attacking percentage, and she used her skills as a player and communicator to help the Grizzlies keep pace throughout the season as they adapted to different rotations due to player injuries. Although sidelined by injury herself at one point, Gandolfo did what she could through her personality and connections with teammates to keep them relaxed and focused on the games.
The Grizzlies posted a 72-20 record during Gandolfo’s tenure with the team, winning two Region 16 titles and a third-place trophy at nationals. In addition to numerous all-tournament team honors, Gandolfo received first team All-Region 16 honors both seasons, first team NJCAA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American honors in 2006 and second team NJCAA and AVCA All-American honors in 2007.
She also made her mark on the Grizzly record books. She is fifth in career attacking percentage (.376) for middle attackers and all attackers; sixth in career points earned (1,335); and eighth in career solo blocks (100), career total blocks (321) and career attacking attempts (2,007).
Gandolfo graduated from Missouri State-West Plains in May 2008 with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree and transferred the University of West Florida in Pensacola to play for the Argonauts. In 2008, she helped guide the team to a 31-8 record, the Gulf South Conference (GSC) championship and a “Sweet 16” appearance at the NCAA Division II National Championships. In 2009, she helped direct the Argonauts to a 23-13 record and another Gulf South Conference championship.
She earned multiple individual honors, including all-region academic team, All- GSC Academic Team, first team All-GSC Team, GSC Defensive Player of the Week, GSC Offensive Player of the Week, GSC Most Outstanding Player, South Region All-Tournament Team, GSC Newcomers Team, and NCAA Division II third team All-American. She also was named to the GSC All-Decade Team.
Gandolfo received a Bachelor of Communication Arts-Advertising degree from University of West Florida in 2010 and is currently an assistant coach with the university’s volleyball team.
In accepting the award, Gandolfo said being named to the hall was a “huge honor,” and credited her coaches, Wiedemann and then head coach Trish Knight for teaching her so much about the game. “I try to put (what I learned from here) into my players now,” she said.
She also praised the community for its support during her tenure with the team. “West Plains was my first American experience. I’ll treasure every opportunity I had here. I love my West Plains family,” she said.
This is the 15th year of the Grizzly Athletics Hall of Fame. Grizzly Hall of Fame Selection Committee members include Chairman Russ Gant, Bo Pace, Carolyn Smith and Quanna Hafer, all of whom are members of the Grizzly Booster Club Executive Board of Directors.