HUTCHINSON, Kan. – “Going 4-0 was our goal, and 4-0 was what we did,” Paula Wiedemann said of the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team’s sweep of the competition this past weekend at the Hutchinson Community College Invitational Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
The Grizzlies (8-5) defeated Barton County Community College of Great Bend, Kan., 25-14, 25-22, 25-16 and the host team 25-18, 25-21, 15-25, 25-17 on Friday, Sept. 21, then held off New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell 28-26, 25-22, 25-23 and Seminole (Okla.) State College 25-20, 25-16, 16-25, 21-25, 16-14 Saturday, Sept. 22.
Wiedemann, the Grizzlies’ head coach, said she was happy with her team’s performance. “We played more consistently through the tournament, which was evident by our ability to get through tough games. We didn’t let frustrations bother us. Our players took more control on the court and made adjustments on their own, and I saw much more communication,” Wiedemann said.
The Grizzlies found their toughest competition coming from their final three opponents. “Hutchinson is very athletic. They have six really good rotations. We came out and took it to them in the first two games, but they came out hot in game three, made very few errors and built a good lead,” Wiedemann said. “We just didn’t take care of the ball well early in that game, but we started playing better at the end and handled them easily in game four. This was a big win for us.”
Saturday’s competition tested the Grizzlies’ ability to play through long games, the coach added. “New Mexico Military may not have the best record, but they make you earn every point. They’re a well-coached team. They didn’t allow us to go on point runs, and that’s why the games were close,” Wiedemann said.
“Seminole is scrappy. They can be one of the most frustrating teams to play because they seem like they’re not in the game, but then they kick it in gear and make you play defense and earn every point. Their setter is very good. She dictates the demeanor of the team and has many ways of scoring points,” Wiedemann said.
Statistically, the Grizzlies were led offensively by freshman outside attacker Helena Peric, who recorded 49 kills on 92 attempts with 10 errors for an attacking percentage of .424. She also had six blocks, 49 digs two aces and a team-leading 57 points earned.
“I’m very proud of Helena. As many struggles as she’s had over the past few games, she has worked hard in practice and really made her presence known in this tournament,” the coach said. “She got up and made great swings and took better care of the ball.”
Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Swayzer followed with 40 kills on 106 attempts with 14 errors for an attacking percentage of .245, and freshman middle/right side attacker Torika Baleilekutu added 38 kills on 85 attempts with 14 errors for an attacking percentage of .282. Baleilekutu led the team in blocks with 15.5, including six solo blocks, and Swayzer led the team in digs with 51.
“Taylor was consistent throughout the weekend. She took good swings, made few errors and picked up her efficiency,” Wiedemann said. “Torika had a fantastic tournament, minus some hitting errors against Seminole on good swings. She went up and took aggressive swings, and although it resulted in some errors, those kind of errors you can live with.”
Sophomore middle attacker Magda Zietek also returned to the lineup full time at the tournament, posting 26 kills and an attacking percentage of .242. “Magda did well. The longer she played, the more efficient she got. I hope the more she plays, the more vocal she’ll get so she gets more swings,” Wiedemann said.
The coach also talked about freshman setter Sarah Stretch, sophomore right side attacker Candyce Alexander and freshman libero Victoria Williams. Stretch had 176 assists, Alexander had 32 kills, and Williams had 47 digs and three service aces.
“Sarah didn’t feel like she had the best tournament in the way she played, but she distributed the ball well again, and she was the only 4-0 setter there,” Wiedemann said. “Even though Candyce struggled with efficiency, she brings a lot of emotion to the court and seemed to have a big kill or dig at the right time. Victoria has been playing well, consistently giving us a strong passing presence and keeping the ball off the floor which makes us better.”
The Grizzlies will open their Region 16 season at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, when they host Mineral Area College, Park Hills, Mo., at the West Plains Civic Center in a match being sponsored by Hirsch Feed & Farm Supply. “We expect a good match. They’re the defending region champions, but we’re looking to reclaim the top spot in the region. There’s only one road to nationals for us, and it’s through Region 16,” Wiedemann said.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including a copy of the 2012 schedule, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/.