The Missouri State University-West Plains Lady Grizzlies returned to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women's National Volleyball Championship Tournament after winning their seventh consecutive NJCAA Region 16 Championship Nov. 12.
The Lady Grizzlies (37-8) defeated the Jefferson College Lady Vikings from Hillsboro, Mo., 30-25, 30-27, 30-22 in the championship match at the Gene Bess Activity Center on the campus of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
In semifinal action the Lady Grizzlies downed the Three Rivers Lady Raiders 30-14, 30-15, 30-18.
The championship match was a renewal of an annual rivalry that has been going on for the past 13 years. The first six years, Jefferson College earned the right to go to the national tournament by winning the region title, but this year the Lady Grizzlies got the upper hand in the battle with their seventh consecutive region championship.
"Any time you play well enough to win this match, you've played really well," Lady Grizzly Head Coach Trish Kissiar-Knight said of the region championship. "The key was winning that first game. Last year, we lost the first game to Jefferson and had to come back to win the championship. Then, when we won the second game, I think that really shifted the match's momentum in our favor."
Another key to the win was Missouri State-West Plains' balanced attack. Sophomore outside attacker Courtney Hendrickson led the team in kills with 10, followed by sophomore outside attacker Amy Lusk and freshman middle attacker Theresa Caldwell with nine kills each, freshman middle attacker Joelle Mafo with seven kills, and sophomore setter Candace Saleaumua with six kills.