PARK HILLS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team continued its domination Region 16 play Tuesday evening, Oct. 16, defeating the Mineral Area College (MAC) Cardinals in straight sets 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 at Park Hills, Mo.
The Grizzlies, 20-5 overall and currently ranked ninth nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, are now 3-0 in region play and have one region match remaining, a 6 p.m. contest Oct. 25 against Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. Jefferson remains at 2-1 and MAC is 0-4 in the region.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with this region road win,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. “We went into their place, where they always play well, and we continued what we started when we first met them here on Sept. 25. That match, when we dropped the second set, was a light-bulb moment for us. We began to play the game the way we needed to, mentally, and we’ve continued to feed off that win. To take it into last night’s match and keep it rolling is big.”
The Grizzlies and Cardinals traded points for about the first 10 points of each set, but the Grizzlies were able to maintain their focus and physical play finish out the sets strong. “We played every phase of the game well. We took great swings, we dug the ball well, we passed it well and we served it well,” Wiedemann said.
The coach pointed out the Grizzlies only had 11 hitting errors for the match and averaged 17 digs per set. “If we can consistently do this, it will help us play at a high level against good teams,” she said.
Leading the way offensively was freshman outside attacker Helena Peric with 12 kills off 25 attempts with two errors for an attacking percentage of .400. Freshman middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu followed with 10 kills off 15 attempts with one error for an attacking percentage of .600.
“Helena is still playing consistently. She provides us that stability,” Wiedemann said. “Torika was able to get back into the groove. We worked on fundamentals Monday in practice, and I think that helped her. She took better swings and had fewer errors.”
Freshman setter Sarah Stretch led the team in assists with 40, while Baleilekutu led the team in passing rating with 2.9.
Defensively, the Grizzlies were paced by sophomore outside attacker Taylor Swayzer, who led the team in digs with 14, and Baleilekutu, who led the team in blocks with four. “Taylor was so solid defensively last night, especially with the off-blocker defense. Nothing hit the floor. She frustrated everyone. The same with (freshman libero) Victoria Williams. She was really digging the ball. All six of our players had at least two digs per set,” Wiedemann said.
“Running offense out of our defense is a big deal, and we’re doing better at that, and when we establish our middle, like last night, it’s going to open up everything else offensively,” she added.
Next on the schedule for the Grizzlies is a 6 p.m. contest Friday, Oct. 19, against NJCAA Division II powerhouse Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. “This will be a tough road test for us. They’re a good defensive team. Anything can happen when a team is playing good defense. We will have to bring the same thing to the floor,” Wiedemann warned.
As for the final Region 16 match set for Oct. 25 against Jefferson, the coach said, “This is going to be a big game. We need to go into it like we have to win it to be the top seed in the region. We want to put ourselves in that position.”
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/.
– News release prepared by University Communications