TYLER, Texas – Despite the looming threat of Hurricane Harvey, the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team took the court this past weekend at Rose City Classic tournament hosted by Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, and brought home a 1-2 record to start the 2017 campaign.
The Grizzlies, ranked ninth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) preseason poll, fell to Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas, 10-25, 16-25, 25-21, 18-25 and the host team, ranked 17th, 16-25, 19-25, 18-25 on Friday, Aug. 25, but bounced back Saturday morning to down North Central Texas College, Gainesville, 25-14, 25-16, 25-20.
The Grizzlies were scheduled to play San Jacinto College from Pasadena, Texas, but Harvey kept the team from the suburbs of Houston from making the trip north to Tyler.
“There’s a lot of potential with this young team,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. “They’re listening, they’re doing things, they’re understanding why we put so much emphasis on taking care of the ball. They’ve never had to concentrate that much on that piece of the game as they do now.”
This year’s Grizzly squad is made up of freshmen, with only two redshirts returning from last year’s squad. The result was a rough start on Friday against Navarro and Tyler. “We continued to work on some things, figure things out,” Wiedemann said. “Starting off with teams like Navarro and Tyler in those first two games, in the long run, it’s going to be good for us. Our players saw the types of teams we’ll be up against time after time.”
The quality of the competition also taught the Grizzlies they would have to maintain a certain level of play to be successful. “When our ball control was better and we maintained our play, they were very good,” Wiedemann said. “The hardest thing with young teams is that they’re not used to playing through points the way we have to play through points.”
The Grizzlies took those lessons to heart Saturday against North Central Texas. “Coming into Saturday, I was curious to see how they would respond against a team that did some good things the day before. Our team did a great job. They were up for it, they were excited about getting back on the court. We became more efficient, and we took care of the ball better,” Wiedemann said.
For the tournament, the Grizzlies were led offensively by freshman middle attacker Keziah Williams with 22 kills on 35 attempts with seven errors for an attacking percentage of .428. Fellow freshman middle attackers Grace Stumbaugh and Yileen Ng He each added 15 kills, and freshman outside/right side hitter Tatjana Trifkovic had 19 kills. Freshman setter Miriam Cardoner Soler had 67 assists.
Defensively, Stumbaugh led the team in blocks with six, including two solo blocks, and Trifkovic led the team in digs with 25. Williams and freshman libero Kamryn Artale each had three service aces. Williams led the team in points earned with 27.5.
“Keziah had a good overall tournament. She and Grace were both very solid. As we improve our ball control, we’ll be able to utilize our middles much better,” Wiedemann said. “Tatjana did a nice job, as well. She played aggressively, which made a difference. And Kamryn did a good job as our libero. She’s becoming more comfortable running our passing and defense. Her ability to continue to improve in her playing in bigger space will positively impact the game, and improvement in our blocking will help our defense across the board.”
Wiedemann pointed out the things the Grizzlies are struggling with now can be fixed. “The realization of how you’re going to have to do things in practice and how that impacts a game means a lot more to them now. They’re becoming aware of the ways they can improve in all areas of the game. They’re seeing the big picture and how their individual performances impact the entire team.”
The Grizzlies are scheduled to participate in the Blinn College Premier Tournament this coming weekend, Sept. 1-2, in Brenham, Texas, but Wiedemann said weather conditions from Harvey’s stay in the southeast Texas region may impact that event. She expects to hear from Blinn officials in the next day or two about the status of the tournament.
The Grizzlies, who are entering their 25th year of competitive play, open their home season at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 when they host No. 3 Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs, at the West Plains Civic Center. The game, sponsored by Hirsch Feed and Farm Supply, will follow the annual Grizzly Booster Club Fall Picnic, set for 5 p.m. in the civic center exhibit hall. Admission to the game is free, and a free barbecue meal from Almost Famous Grille and BBQ will be served to the first 500 people attending.
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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