OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Defensive struggles cost the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team a win on the road Friday night, Oct. 19. The ninth-ranked Grizzlies, now 20-6, fell to Johnson County Community College 22-25, 23-25, 13-25 in Overland Park, Kan.
“We played well enough to stay in the game, but our blocking and defense eventually killed us,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. “In games one and two, we were right there with them. We had opportunities to win either one of those games, but we just didn’t get it done. The one thing we’ve done so well the past month and a half is make adjustments, and we didn’t do that very well Friday night.”
Johnson County, the No. 13 team in the nation in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Division II poll, changed their tactics from a week ago when they appeared in the Colton’s Steak House & Grill/Holiday Inn Express Grizzly Invitational Tournament in West Plains. Instead of running a 6-2 rotation, they ran a 5-1, Wiedemann said, “and it really clicked for them.”
That change and Missouri State-West Plains’ defensive struggles kept the Grizzlies chasing their opponents. “Our defense did not have a chance to form around our block. As a result, we didn’t give ourselves a chance to finish those first two games out,” Wiedemann said. “In game three, Johnson County played an almost perfect game. They made their luck with their effort, and the ball bounced their way. We were frustrated that the balls weren’t going down for us, and we couldn’t buy a dig.”
The Grizzlies only recorded two blocks and 39 digs for the night. Freshman outside hitter Helena Peric led the team in digs with 13, as well as in passing rating with 2.88, kills with 14 and points earned with 14. Sophomore middle attacker Magda Zietek was the most effective offensively at the net, posting a .250 attacking percentage. Freshman setter Sarah Stretch had 35 assists and the team’s only service ace of the evening.
“We passed well. That wasn’t an issue, and our serving was okay, but not as effective as it has been. We just didn’t put them on their heels like we did the first time. Our blocking and defense made us feel like we were chasing them, trying to catch up,” the coach said.
The loss, though, may turn into a positive for the Grizzlies. “It’s not the worst thing in the world. We’ve already had a very good talk after the match about what went wrong,” Wiedemann said. “If we can suffer a loss like we did against Johnson County then come together, discuss what went wrong and come up with the answers, that bodes well for the rest of the season. This can be a very good lesson learned. That’s what can make it a good loss – how it helps us move forward with the rest of the season.”
The Grizzlies will be asked to put those new lessons into practice Thursday, Oct. 25, when they meet Region 16 arch rival Jefferson College for the last time in the regular season at 6 p.m. in Hillsboro, Mo. “This is a big region game for us. A positive result will put us in the driver’s seat for the Region 16 tournament. We need to be ready to play on their home floor,” Wiedemann said.
Following Thursday’s match, the Grizzlies will stay in Hillsboro to compete in the Jefferson College Invitational Tournament Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 17. On Friday, the Grizzlies will play No. 4 Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs, at 3 p.m. and Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa, Iowa, at 7 p.m. Saturday, the Grizzlies will face Seminole (Okla.) State College at noon and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College at 2 p.m.
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/.