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msugriz(West Plains) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team returns to its home court at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, after posting a 1-3 record in the Miami Dade College Invitational Tournament this past weekend in Miami, Fla.

The Grizzlies, now 4-9, will face Redlands College from El Reno, Okla., in the Joe Paul Evans Arena. Area residents who bring a prepackaged snack to donate to the West Plains Area Boys and Girls Club will receive free tickets to the game, Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. The collection is part of the team’s community service project for the evening, she explained. The match will be sponsored by Burton Creek Medical Complex and NAPA Auto Parts.

The Grizzlies participated in another “extremely tough” tournament at Miami, Wiedemann said, with all four competitors nationally ranked. So far this season, the Grizzlies have played 10 nationally-ranked teams in their first 13 games. “I don’t know when we’ve had a stretch like this to start off a season,” she said. “Everything we’re doing now is preparing us for what we need to do at the end of the season.”

They started the tournament Friday, Sept. 13, against the hosting Sharks, ranked 17th by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) going into the event, and lost 19-25, 23-25, 22-25. They turned around later that day, however, and defeated No. 9 College of Central Florida of Ocala 25-20, 14-25, 32-30, 25-28. On Saturday, they fell to No. 8 College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls, 16-25, 21-25, 16-25 and No. 15 Polk State College of Winter Haven, Fla., 25-21, 15-25, 21-25, 14-25.

“Miami Dade is better than they’ve been in a long time,” the coach said. “They’re very talented, and we played a tough game with them. We came out in our second match against Central Florida and started executing better. Offensively, we produced more kills and had fewer errors. This was an excellent win for us. It made us realize how we can play when we play with more of a killer instinct.

“Against CSI, we didn’t pass very efficiently. They’re a great blocking team, so that put us on our heels,” Wiedemann continued. “But when we served effectively, we took them out of their game. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that consistently enough. Polk State is scrappy, and they have a lot of attitude on their side of the floor, and if you don’t bring your own attitude to the floor, they’re going to make you pay for it. We won the first game and had the opportunity to go up 2-1, but we didn’t finish it out and they took over the game in the end.”

The Grizzlies’ statistical leaders included sophomore outside attacker Helena Peric, who had 63 kills and 68.5 points earned; sophomore middle attacker Torika Balielekutu, who had an attacking percentage of .234 and 4.5 blocks, including four solos, and five service aces; freshman setter Brianna Zebert, who had 137 assists; and freshman libero Alyssa Aldag, who had 49 digs.

“We’re benefitting from the competition we’re seeing, regardless of the outcome of the games,” Wiedemann said. “We’re just going to have to learn to maintain a certain level of intensity in practice so we’re able to do it more consistently during the game. We need to develop an attitude of wanting to prove we’re the toughest people on the court.”

For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/.

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