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(Casper, WY) – Dreams of a national championship will have to wait one more year for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team.

The Grizzlies (23-13) lost to Hillsborough Community College of Tampa, Fla., 23-25, 13-25, 20-25 Thursday, Nov. 21, in the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship Tournament in Casper, Wyo.

With the Grizzlies, seeded 12th in the tournament, move to the consolation bracket where they will meet 13th seeded New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell (23-17) at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) today. The highest the Grizzlies can place in this year’s tournament, which continues through Saturday, Nov. 23, is ninth.

This was the second year in a row the Grizzlies, who are making their 13th national tournament appearance, met the fifth-seeded Hawks in the opening round, and unfortunately, the results were the same as the previous year.

“They’re a very efficient team and well coached,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said this morning. “We just didn’t execute our game plan to put ourselves in a position to win.”

The Grizzlies had their opportunities in the first game to set the tone for the match, going up by as much as 7 points midway through the set. But adjustments by the Hawks and a lack of aggressiveness by the Grizzlies let the Hawks come back to take the game.

“Losing game one was huge,” Wiedemann said. “We were in a position to win it, and we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be at the end, and that shifted momentum to them.”

The Hawks took off with that momentum in the second set and kept the Grizzlies at bay. “One of the things that we’ve done so well all season, and that we did in game one, was serving. But in the second set, we didn’t serve effectively enough to get them out of their offense. Their middles played fantastic, and we started making adjustments to compensate, but by that time, it was too late,” the coach explained.

Wiedemann said the flow of Hillsborough’s offense created problems in the Grizzlies’ defense. “Your instinct is to go with the flow of their offense when really you should go against it. If we could have done that better, it would have put us in a position to create better offense for us,” she said.

One major bright spot for the Grizzlies was the play of sophomore outside hitter Nella Ioramo, who had 19 kills on 38 attempts with six errors for an attacking percentage of .342. She also had seven digs.

“Nella had a phenomenal game,” Wiedemann said. “She was everywhere. Even some of her errors were good errors. She was taking good swings, pounding the ball, and she wasn’t sending the ball all over the gym. Her misses were just by inches, and she didn’t have an error in the last game.”

Wiedemann pointed out Hillsborough’s coach, Gary Larkin, even commented on Ioramo’s play after the match was over, saying “she was the best player on the court.”

Wiedemann also praised sophomore middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu and sophomore outside attacker Laiz Novaes. “Torika played very hard and showed great effort,” Wiedemann said. “Laiz played very well, too. She took care of the ball, got a couple of good kills and had other good swings without any errors.”

Today’s meeting against New Mexico will be the third meeting this season between the two teams. The teams split their earlier meetings, and Wiedemann said she expects another tough match.

Area residents who would like to watch the Grizzlies or any of the teams in action can do so locally by free live streaming video at http://www.njcaatv.com/volleyballchamp/. Times listed are MST, so area residents will need to add one hour to the listed time in order to tune in at the right time locally.

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

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