(West Plains) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team will close out its regular season at 6 p.m. today with a home match against Indian Hills Community College from Ottumwa, Iowa, in the Joe Paul Evans Arena at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Grizzlies, now 20-12, enter the contest on an 11-game winning streak following victories late last week against Mineral Area College (MAC) in Park Hills, Mo., and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and Illinois Central College of East Peoria in the Jefferson College Halloween Classic at Hillsboro, Mo.
Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann reminded tonight is “Dig for a Cure Night” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For the sixth year in a row, Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic (PTSC) is hosting the fund-raiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. PTSC representatives will be selling T-shirts, pink bracelets and cancer ribbons and providing information about their services. Breast cancer survivors will be admitted free and will be recognized during the evening. Those who make a $5 donation will receive a free ticket to the game, which begins at 6 p.m.
In addition, the team’s sophomores and Adopt-A-Grizzly host families will be recognized during the game.
“We hope everyone comes out tonight. Not only will they be supporting a worthy cause, they’ll also see a great match,” Wiedemann said. “We’ve won 15 of our last 16 matches, but we know we’ve got to continue to work to get better. Our players have been responding well to the way we want them to play, and it’s giving them the confidence they need to face good teams in close matches. This will be another great match that will help prepare us for this weekend and the postseason.”
Last Thursday’s 25-15, 25-20, 24-26, 25-23 win over Region 16 rival MAC gave the Grizzlies the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Region 16 Championship Tournament, set for Friday and Saturday at the civic center.
“It was a good region win,” Wiedemann said. “They’re a talented team, and it’s tough to play at their place. We did some good things to keep them on their heels, especially in the first two sets, but they started doing the things they do well – pass and play defense – which helped them stay in the match. They went up 24-19 in the third set, but we came back and tied it at 24 before they finished it out. Still, we carried our momentum into the fourth set, and even though it was close, I felt like we were in control in that last set.”
Statistical leaders for the Grizzlies were sophomore outside/middle attacker Nella Ioramo, who had 21 kills, an attacking percentage of .460 and 24.5 points earned; freshman setter Brianna Zebert with 50 assists; freshman middle attacker Leondra Barrett with 3.5 blocks; and freshman libero Alyssa Aldag with 28 digs.
Friday, the Grizzlies defeated Hutchinson 28-26, 22-25, 21-25, 17-15 and Illinois Central 25-27, 25-23, 25-7, 25-23. Wiedemann called the Hutchinson match one of the best defensive efforts by both teams this season. “Hutchinson did a good job creating one-on-one situations, and that’s something we needed to experience. I felt like, as the game progressed, we got better and made good adjustments, especially when they were passing well. It was a really good match to be a part of and to watch. It will prepare us for what we’ll face down the road. We will have to be able to fight to beat the good teams,” the coach said.
Illinois Central, the No. 6 team in NJCAA Division 2, also proved to be a tough competitor, but the Grizzlies’ size eventually made the difference in the match, Wiedemann said. “They’re extremely well coached and one of the top D-2 teams year in and year out. They’re scrappy and they make you earn points. The first two sets were tough, but we were extremely efficient on offense. As a team, we hit .500. We really began to separate ourselves in the third set when Nella began putting on a show. She had nine kills in 11 swings in that set alone. She was absolutely unstoppable. The angles she was hitting and the things she was doing, she just took over.
But Illinois Central turned around in the fourth set, refocused and began playing well. Even so, I still felt we were in control because we were taking care of the ball,” the coach said.
Statistical leaders for the two tournament matches were Ioramo, who had 47 kills and 48 points earned; sophomore outside attacker Helena Peric, who led in attacking percentage with .529; Zebert with 112 assists; Barrett with 3.5 blocks; and Aldag with 70 digs.
“Alyssa is just getting better and better,” Wiedemann said. “She had seven digs per set against MAC, nine per set against Hutchinson and six per set against Illinois. She’s so good at evaluating another team’s strengths and weaknesses, and she pays attention to their hitters.”
Wiedemann also praised Peric’s play against Illinois Central. She had 18 kills with no errors on 29 attempts.
Complete statistics for all Grizzly matches can be found at http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/wvball/2013-14/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/.