Golden Grizzlies Complete Season With Future In Mind

When the 1999 volleyball season was over, head coach Ed Tolentino knew that he was going to have to take a fallen program and try to establish a successful one. So Tolentino went out and nabbed some top recruits, and tried to inspire the players that he had to achieve this goal

Although the Golden Grizzlies made progress, it wasn’t exactly what they imagined. Rather they had hoped for a winning season and a conference tournament berth to prove they were worthy of the task at hand. Each player dug deep within their soul, but with frustration setting in, the Golden Grizzlies took the blows and never quite recovered. Key injuries struck OU at different times, but the chemistry just never came around. Oakland was loaded with established players, but the right mix was never discovered. So the ladies decided that as long as they improved and made a stride forward in each game that it would be a blessing in disguise. Many matches could have gone either way, but in the long run the Grizzlies didn’t get the breaks that they were hoping for.

Oakland first traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take part in the Duquesne Tournament September 1-2. The Golden Grizzlies won their first match of the season against Morgan State.  OU fell short in the first game 7-15, but came back strong winning three straight games 15-5, 15-10, and 15-11. Oakland improved to 1-0 on the season. Junior Tess Pierce (Yorkville, IL/ Yorkville HS) led OU with 17 kills, while Cloretta Porter (Battle Creek/ St.Phillips HS) followed with 14. Senior Jaime Puckett (Rockford/Rockford HS) led Oakland defensively with 20 digs.

The next game was against Virginia Commonwealth and VCU downed the Grizzlies in three games. Oakland lost 12-15, 7-15, and 13-15, as its record fell to 1-1. The Grizzlies were led by Puckett with 13 kills and 16 digs. Senior Andrea Cothren (Muncie, IN/Cowan HS) recorded 25 assists to lead OU.

Oakland woke the next day with hopes of taking a top spot in the tourney but fell two straight matches to Duquesne and St.Francis

OU came out strong in the Duquesne match winning 15-3, but couldn’t keep the momentum going losing the next three matches 10-15, 5-15, and 9-15. Oakland’s record falls to 1-2 overall.  Leading the way for the Grizzlies were juniors Pierce with 10 kills and Carmen Trippett (Albion/Albion HS) with nine. Cothren led OU with 35 assists while Puckett and Kim Shetler (Bay City/Central) recorded 12 digs and 10 digs, respectively, to lead OU defensively.

The Grizzlies were defeated in match two by St. Francis in a tight game going to battle in five matches. Oakland lost the first two 6-15 and 9-15. The Grizzlies then bounced back from the loses and won the next two games 15-10 and 15-13. The last game was a battle back and forth and St.Francis pulled away with the win for the game and match with the final score 12-15.  Pierce led the Golden Grizzlies offensively with 18 kills and Trippett followed with 14. Cothren recorded 36 assists to lead OU, while defensively Lisa Matwijiw (North Olmsted OH/ North Olmsted HS) had 16 digs followed by Puckett with 13. Shetler and Pierce rounded off the double figures with 11 digs each. OU had a team total 13 blocks for a season-high.

OU’s Pierce was named to the 2000 Duquesne Volleyball All-Tournament Team for her performance. Pierce led the Golden grizzlies with 52 kills and a .248 attacking percentage. She also led the team in blocks with 18, averaging 1.38 per game. Pierce compiled 32 digs and two assists over the weekend.

Oakland then traveled to the Iowa to take part in the Iowa tournament. OU started off on a roll as they defeated Texas Southern in the opening day of the tourney. The Grizzlies downed TSU in a sweep 3-0 (15-2, 15-7, 15-4). Oakland improved to 2-3 overall with the victory. Leading the way for Oakland were Pierce with 14 kills and Trippett with 13. Cothren guided the way with 35 assists and three service aces, while Puckett recorded a team- high six digs. OU combined for a .412 attacking percentage, recording 45 kills, 41 assists, seven service aces and 28 digs.

Oakland then suffered two back to back loses against Evansville and Iowa while they watched its record dwindle to 2-5.

The Grizzlies lost a close one to the Purple Aces of Evansville by the scores of 15-12, 15-13, and 15-10. In the second match Oakland was defeated by the host Hawkeyes by the scores of 15-8, 15-2, 15-2.  Leading the way for OU was Trippett with 10 kills and five digs, Pierce with nine kills and five digs, and Porter with eight kills and six digs. Oakland combined for 44 kills and 40 digs.   Highlights in the second game versus Iowa were Trippett’s 10 kills and Pierce with seven kills and six digs. OU’s Cothren was named to the All-Tournament team for her solid performance in the tournament.

Oakland then traveled back to Rochester to take on the Eagles from Eastern Michigan in which the Grizzlies prevailed with a win to improve its record to 3-5.  OU won the first game, 16-14, while the Eagles came back to claim the second 15-5. Oakland came back strong and won the next game 15-11, but once again Eastern refused to lose in the fourth game, winning 18-16 in a heated battle. In the final game OU claimed victory in the rally match with the final score 16-14 to take the match and win.   Trippett led the way with 23 kills , following her was Porter and Pierce with 18 kills a piece. Matwijiw led defensively with 21 digs followed by Puckett with 19, and Shetler with 15. Puckett also recorded 11 kills in the victory. Cothren led the Grizzlies with 53 assists and 10 digs.

Oakland then remained home in Rochester to take on Chicago State to open up the Mid-Continent Conference schedule. OU defeated the Cougars, 3-0 to pick up the win and improve their record to 4-5 overall and 1-0 in Mid-Con play.  The Grizzlies claimed the three games 15-11, 15-9, and 15-12, while hitting a .277 with 44 kills, 36 assists, five aces, 41 digs, and 14 blocks. Trippett led with 14 kills of her own, good for a .500 hitting percentage. Cothren recorded five kills and 34 assists.

Next, OU traveled to Macomb, Illinois to take on the Westerwinds but fell 1-3. Oakland drops to 4-6 overall, and 1-1 in conference play with scores of 15-11, 5-15, 4-15, 5-15. OU totaled 33 kills, nine service aces, 55 digs and seven blocks.  Trippett once again paced the Grizzlies with her 14 kills, and nine digs. Porter tallied seven kills and two digs, while Shetler collected 11 digs defensively.

Oakland returned to Rochester to face Mid-American Conference rival Central Michigan as they fell to the Chippewas 3-0. The Grizzlies lost the three games by scores of 4-15, 6-15, and 9-15. OU played without its two top hitters– Pierce and Trippett, who were sidelined by injuries.  Porter and Puckett stepped up to help the Grizzlies with 12 kills apiece. Porter hit .310 during the three- game match and Puckett recorded a .303 hitting percentage. Matiwijiw led Oakland with 13 digs, while Cothren led in assists with 27 , also picking up four kills.

The Grizzlies remained at home as they faced Mid-Con opponent Youngstown State. Oakland battled with the Penguins in a five matches and fell 2-3. OU fell to 4-8 overall, even after recording a season-high 19 blocks.  Oakland found themselves down 12-6 in the first game but fought back to take the win 15-12. OU used that momentum to capture game two15-6 and opened game three scoring. YSU came from behind in game three to win the first match of the game 16-14. The Penguins went on to win games four and five 15-3 and 15-8. Pierce led Oakland as she returned from an injury with a team leading .389 hitting percentage in the match with 14 kills and five blocks. Trippett also reached the double figure mark with 10 kills and tallied four blocks. Cothren had 34 assists and two blocks in the loss.

Valparaiso traveled to Rochester to take on the struggling Grizzlies, but found themselves falling as OU defeated the Crusaders, 3-1. Oakland improved its record to 5-8 overall and 2-2 in Mid-Con play. The Grizzlies came out strong and took games one and two 15-10 and 15-6, before falling to Valpo 3-15 in game three. Oakland responded to that loss with a victory of its own 15-10 to capture the match and game. Trippett led the way with 14 kills and a .393 hitting percentage. Pierce followed with 13 kills while Puckett garnished 11. Pierce had a .313 hitting percentage in the win and Puckett gathered a .152. Porter guided OU at the net recording four solo blocks, one assist, and nine kills.  Oakland reached another season high with 20 blocks replacing its old record of 15.

In a series of home games, IUPUI traveled to the 'O’rena to take on Oakland as they defeated the Grizzlies 1-3. Oakland fell to 5-9 overall and 2-3 in the Mid-Con. Oakland fell in games one and two 15-13 and 17-15 before defeating the jaguars 17-15 in game three. Oakland fell behind early in game four and was defeated 15-8 by IUPUI.  Pierce had a season high 23 kills and a .458 hitting percentage, while Trippett followed with 17 kills and a .333 hitting percentage. Porter and Puckett reached double figures with 16 and 12 kills apiece.  The Grizzlies played well at the net recording three solo blocks, and 24 block assists. Pierce had a career high nine block-assists, while Porter boasted five and Puckett and Trippett each had four. Matwijiw, Puckett, and Shetler each had 13, 13, and11 digs respectively.

Oral Roberts was the next opponent to come into town as the Golden Eagles proved to be too much for the Grizzlies to handle and walked away with the victory 0-3. OU fell to 5-10 overall and 2-4 in conference play. The scores of the game were 7-15, 5-15, and 10-15 to lead the Golden Eagles to the win.  Puckett led with 10 kills, a .222 hitting percentage, eight digs, and two solo blocks. The conference powerhouse ORU was led by Patricia Domingues with 14 kills.

The Kangaroos from UMKC came in to battle the Grizzlies and bounced all over OU as they hopped away with the win 1-3. Oakland fell to 5-11 overall and 2-5 in Mid-Con action. UMKC took the first match 15-12, but the Grizzlies refused to fall victim in the second game and defeated the kangaroos 15-13. UMKC came back strong and took back to back matches from Oakland 15-6 and 15-5.  Puckett led again with 13 kills and seven digs. Trippett followed with 12 kills and four blocks, while Pierce had 10 kills along with two blocks.

Oakland then hosted its last home match against a non-conference opponent as the Golden Grizzlies dropped to 5-12 overall to visiting Wisconsin-Green Bay 1-3. Oakland recorded 42 kills, 34 assists, four service aces, 54 digs, and 15 blocks in the loss.  OU fell in game one 15-8 and responded by dominating game two while claiming victory 15-1. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies the Phoenix of UWGB battled back and defeated OU 15-11 in the final two games in the match.   Pierce and Porter racked up 10 kills apiece for Oakland. Defensively, Shetler and Matwijiw led the way with 14, and 11 digs apiece. Junior transfer Lauren Kostel (Belleville, IL/ Parkland JC ) guided the Grizzlies with tallying a career-high 24 assist and three service aces.

The Grizzlies hit the road, stopping first in Indianapolis to face Mid-Con opponent IUPUI, 1-3. Oakland lost the first game 12-15, won the second 15-10 and lost the last two with identical scores: 6-15.  Trippett, once again led Oakland with a career-high, 20 kills to go along with her .432 hitting percentage. Porter followed with nine kills and Pierce recorded eight. As a team, OU had a .197 hitting percentage. Shetler and Puckett guided the Grizzlies with 12 and 11 digs.

Oakland wrapped up a two-game road trip with a 1-3 loss at Valparaiso. The Golden grizzlies defeated the Crusaders earlier in the season, but couldn’t manage the season sweep as OU fell to Valpo 15-12, 6-15, 8-15. OU fell to 5-14 overall and 2-7 in Mid-Con action.  Game one belonged to the serving of the Golden Grizzlies. They recorded six serving aces, on their way to 12 for the match. Valpo responded in game two, hitting .321, while holding Oakland to -.054. In game three, Valpo raced out to a 10-0 lead and OU couldn’t battle back, and in game four, the Crusaders again held the Golden Grizzlies to a negative hitting percentage (-.033) while taking the match. Porter led the Grizzlies with 10 kills.

Oakland then traveled north to take on the Chippewa’s of Central Michigan and were defeated 1-3. OU came out strong the first game, defeating CMU 15-10. The winning stopped there for the Grizzlies as they dropped the next three games 10-15, 8-15, and 6-15.  Pierce led the attack with 15 kills and a .423 hitting percentage. She also recorded 11 digs, one solo block, and one block assist. Trippett had 13 kills, one service ace, one solo block, and three block assists.

The Grizzlies returned home to take on Western Illinois, but fell short 3-2. Oakland’s record slipped to 5-16 overall and 2-9 in conference play. OU came out strong in game one winning 15-6, but lost a close one in game two 13-15. Oakland also lost game three 9-15 and responded with a 15-7 victory in game four. In the rally match, the Westerwinds proved to be too much as they claimed the victory with a 15-13 win. Cothren recorded a season-high 77 assists in the game. She also guided Oakland at the net with 10 blocks in the contest (two solo, eight block assists). Porter had a career-high 23 kills and was followed by Trippett with 22 kills. Pierce added 17 and Puckett contributed 14.

OU finally snapped its losing streak with their third conference win against Chicago State 3-1. Oakland improved their record to 6-16 overall and 3-8 in the Mid-Con.  Oakland came out strong in the first game, defeating Chicago State 15-5. OU took the second game easily defeating the Cougars 15-1. CSU came back strong taking game three 15-11 and the Grizzlies locked up the win in the fourth game 15-6 to snap their eight-game losing streak. Porter led OU with 14 kills, Pierce had 12, while Trippett and Puckett added nine apiece. Cothren led n assists with 39 and tallied four blocks and seven kills. Matwijiw had three kills and 10 digs while Shetler and Puckett each had nine digs.

Oakland competed in its last home game of the season against a feisty Cleveland State team October 31. OU dropped the first two games 3-15, 13-15, but rallied to take game three 15-10. The Grizzlies couldn’t come up with a comeback as they lost game four 5-15.  Porter led again with 15 kills, while Trippett and Pierce followed with 9 apiece. Puckett had 10 digs, while Kostel had 34 assists.

Oakland then traveled to UMKC to take on the Kangaroos in hopes of turning the tables. But UMKC had a different idea as they shut out Oakland 3-0 by scores of 12-15, 6-15, and 4-15.  Pierce led with 11 kills and a .500 hitting percentage, followed by Trippett with eight kills and a .150 attacking percentage.

The Golden Grizzlies then headed south to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take on the tough Golden eagles and were shut out for the second straight game. The Golden Eagles won by scores of 15-6, 15-1, and 15-3. As a team, OU only hit .080 compared to ORU’s .358. Oakland was impressive blocking, however, as the Grizzlies stung the Eagles for 13 block solos and block assists. 

OU came up short once again as they traveled to Bowling Green 3-0 by scores of 8-15, 13-15, and 7-15. The Golden Grizzlies fell to 6-20 overall.   The Grizzlies were led by Trippett with 11 kills and a .212 hitting percentage. Puckett followed offensively with seven kills and a .138 attack percentage. Cothren tallied 29 assists and Matwijiw led the way with 14 digs.

Oakland fell to 6-21 overall and 3-11 in Mid-Con action after a 1-3 loss to Youngstown State. The Golden Grizzlies, who fell 10-15, 12-15, 15-8, 4-15, hit a .122 as a team with 52 kills.  OU was led by Trippett with 15 kills, five digs, and four block assists. Pierce followed with 12 kills, five digs, and two block assists. Cothren guided the Grizzlies with 39 assists. Defensively two seniors led the way for Oakland, Puckett with 26 digs and Matwijiw with 14.

The Grizzlies wrapped up the 2000 season with a loss to an equally struggling Eastern Michigan 0-3. Oakland completed the season with a 6-22 overall record and a 3-11 Mid-Continent record. OU fell by the scores of 12-15, 11-15, and 8-15.   Cothren ended her career on a good note as she had a .333 hitting percentage, recorded four kills, eight digs, two block assists, and 30 assists on the night. Pierce followed with a .258 attacking percentage, a team-leading 11 kills, three digs, and three block assists.

Playing their final game were Cothren, Shetler, Matwijiw, and Puckett. Although they ended their season and for some their career on a unsatisfactory note, real life lessons were learned, instilled, and passed on. As they struggled, they formed to work together to move from the bottom up. Although success was not reflected through their record, each player found a fulfilling moment by the relationships they made, and the experience they gained. For the seniors, it was time to hang up their shoes, and move on. For the underclassmen, it is a time to move forward and proceed with an ambition for success that may be found in the wings of next year's season. But whatever memory each player will carry, it will be one of finding the person that they are. Success doesn’t always come in victories, rather it comes with the satisfaction of knowing you left everything you have on that playing floor. The 2000 women’s volleyball team was the epitome of working hard and with heart, and every game that was exactly what they left there.

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