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(Casper, WY) – The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship Tournament came to a heartbreaking end this afternoon for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzlies.

The 12th seeded Grizzlies (23-14) fell to 13th seeded New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell (24-17) 20-25, 29-31, 20-25 in second-round action in the tournament’s consolation bracket. The loss puts the Grizzlies out of the tournament for this year.

Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said she was pleased with the effort her team put forth on the court today. “It was a good match. We dug the ball well, we did well with our passing and defense, and we had a lot of good swings. It just wasn’t enough,” she said.

The Grizzlies dug 66 balls in three games and matched New Mexico in nearly every other statistical area except hitting errors, and that’s what made a huge difference in the outcome, Wiedemann said.

“There was just a 12 point difference in the entire game, and they had 10 fewer hitting errors, so there’s the majority of your points,” she said. “We had done so well over the last month being patient, taking good swings, not giving up points, but it’s the little things that make the difference – taking care of the ball and not making errors. I really feel badly for the girls because they played hard today.”

The Grizzlies were up by 7 points in the first game before New Mexico began making a run and eventually took the first set. New Mexico maintained that momentum through the first half of the second set, but the Grizzlies came back and forced Broncos to six game points before the Broncos finally closed out the game. The Grizzlies and Broncos battled back and forth in the third game until the Broncos started pulling away from an 18-18 tie to win the match.

“Game two was a great game,” Wiedemann said. “They went after us, and we went after them. Neither team backed off. There was some good volleyball played in that game. But what it boiled down to was patience, and that’s where it became frustrating.”

Sophomore middle/outside attacker Nella Ioramo led the team offensively with 15 kills, followed by fellow sophomore outside attacker Helena Peric with 10. Freshman setter Brianna Zebert recorded 33 assists, and Ioramo and sophomore middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu each had two service aces.

Defensively, Zebert led the team in digs with 18, followed by freshman libero Alyssa Aldag with 13 and redshirt freshman defensive specialist Grace Kiely with 10. Baleilekutu recorded three blocks.

Despite the early exit from the tournament, Wiedemann said she has been very happy with her team and the support the players have received from the fans and the community. “This year has been great. We really appreciate the support we receive from the university and the community. Our main goal is to be a good representative of Missouri State-West Plains and the West Plains community, and I hope we’ve accomplished that goal,” Wiedemann said.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching this team,” she added. “They’ve come a long way in two-and-a-half months.”

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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