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(Hutchinson) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team has reached the midway point of its season, and Head Coach Paula Wiedemann believes the team is headed in the right direction for a strong finish.

“We’re building in the right areas, but we’re at that point in the season when it’s nice to slow down a little bit,” she said. “We only have two games in the next two weeks, so that will give time to rest up and heal. It also will give us time to work on the things that will help us build team chemistry, which in turn will help us build confidence. That is the key.”

This past weekend’s tournament at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College revealed some lingering issues in the team chemistry department. After a competitive match against ninth ranked Iowa Western Community College of Council Bluffs Friday afternoon, which the Grizzlies lost 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 20-25, the team struggled against unranked New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell later that evening and lost 22-25, 13-25, 21-25.

“I felt we played well against Iowa Western, but we had a variety of frustrations and struggles against New Mexico that affected the outcome of that game,” Wiedemann said. “Our players need to learn how to overcome their emotions when they’re out on the court, and they need to continue to cultivate their relationship with each other. Part of creating chemistry on a team is the willingness of the players to connect and interact with each other. It builds respect, trust and other factors that every great team needs.”

The Grizzlies are more than willing to work on these issues, the coach said, and the first step in that process is a new team rule – turn off the electronics. From now on, she said, electronic devices will be used sparingly on trips and will be turned off during games and practices.

Following the New Mexico match, players turned off their devices and started interacting with each other more, and the results were nearly immediate on Saturday. The Grizzlies defeated Redlands Community College, El Reno, Okla., 10-25, 25-8, 25-21, 25-19 and Seminole (Okla.) State College 25-12, 25-18, 25-19.

“When you’re disconnected as a group, there can be tendencies to be negative about things, and it’s easy to disconnect when you ‘connect’ yourself into your own world,” the coach said. “But once we created this new ‘team’ atmosphere, things turned around.”

Statistical leaders for the Grizzlies at the tournament included sophomore outside attacker Helena Peric with 69 kills, 53 digs and 75 points earned; freshman setter Brianna Zebert, 121 assists; freshman middle attacker Leondra Barrett, 8.5 blocks, including five solos; and sophomore middle attacker Nella Ioramo, five service aces.

“We continued to do a good job defensively, and that put us in a position to have opportunities offensively,” Wiedemann said. “We need to keep working on taking good swings offensively and improving our swing efficiency. We need to stop giving away points with an ‘all of nothing’ attitude at times.”

The Grizzlies next match will be 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, at home in the West Plains Civic Center against Region 16 rival Mineral Area College of Park Hills, Mo. “The girls are excited about playing at home, but they need to keep focused. With this being a region game, it has added importance,” Wiedemann said.

The match is being sponsored by The Fish Shack and The Pizza Shack. The Grizzlies also are asking fans to bring a craft item such as construction paper, colored markers or crayons, glue, etc., or a card game or board game to donate to the West Plains Area Boys and Girls Club for the team’s community service project that evening. Those who donate an item will receive free tickets to the game.

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

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