Paula Wiedemann retires after 26 seasons with MSU-WP Grizzlies

After 26 seasons with the Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) Grizzly Volleyball program – the past 14 as its head coach, Paula Wiedemann is retiring.
University officials made the announcement today, Dec. 12. Her retirement will be effective March 1, 2023.
Patricia Figueiredo, a former Grizzly Volleyball standout who served as an assistant coach with the team this past season, will take over as interim head coach until a permanent head coach is selected, officials said.
"It has been such a great honor and privilege to serve as the head volleyball coach at MSU-WP for the last 26 years," Wiedemann said. "This decision came after much thought, reflection, and discussion with my family and others who I respect tremendously. I am incredibly grateful for the time that I have been a part of the best campus and community which makes this place special, for myself and for our players. The love and support given is the foundation for the success and culture of Grizzly Volleyball. There is no us without you!"
Wiedemann is leaving the program after going back-to-back seasons placing third in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women's National Volleyball Championship Tournament. The Grizzlies finished their 2022 campaign with a 27-8 record and a No. 6 ranking in the last official poll of the season, which was released before postseason play.
The Jenks, Oklahoma, native first joined the Grizzly Volleyball program as assistant coach for then head coach Trish Knight in 1997. Over the past 26 seasons, she's helped guide the Grizzlies to 19 Region 16 Championships, five district championships and 18 NJCAA national championship tournament appearances, with eight of those teams finishing in the final four.
In addition, she helped develop 43 NJCAA All-Americans, 133 All-Region 16 players, 61 NJCAA Academic All-Americans and 18 NJCAA Academic Team Award winners. Wiedemann has an overall record of 835-286 with the Grizzlies as an assistant coach and head coach.
"I would like to thank Trish Knight for bringing me on as her assistant in 1997 and believing in me all these years," Wiedemann said. "Her leadership in building Grizzly Volleyball into a championship program and the guidance and trust she provided me were instrumental in my growth as a coach. I will always be grateful for her mentorship and lifelong friendship.
"None of this would have been possible without the love and support of my family," she added. "Warren, Kelly, Lily and Emma - thank you for always giving me perspective during the craziness of this job. The time we have been able to share as a family with our teams over the years is priceless, and I love you and all the amazing memories.
"I have been blessed with the best and know they have been as much a part of my coaching life and success as anyone. We are literally a volleyball family who share a love of the game and a love for where we are. I could not have done this without them," Wiedemann said.
"Thank you to all my assistant coaches," she added. "They have made me a better leader and person. Their love and support helped our players grow in many areas of their lives, on and off the court. It is a true joy to see their continued successes in their professional and personal lives. I've been fortunate to have four former players come back to join me on the coaching staff. Their love of the game and this place led them back to West Plains. I am thankful for our time together and our lasting friendships.  
"Thank you to so many who have been a part of my volleyball career, and for your endless support and encouragement," Wiedemann said. "I have been blessed by so many fellow coaches, fans, coworkers, administrators and supporters. Thank you for trusting me, giving me grace when needed, and for the love and support through the years. There really is joy in the journey.
"And finally, a huge THANK YOU and much love to all my current and former players. You are the reason this has been an amazing journey and the love and gratitude I have for you runs deep. You are Grizzly Volleyball. I am the lucky one to have had the opportunity to be your coach and to believe in you in ways that go well beyond the game. Your commitment and love for our program and each other has built a lasting culture I am grateful to have been a part of.  You will continue to be a light in my life forever, and I will forever be a Grizzly!," she said.
In addition to her accomplishments with the team, Wiedemann fulfilled various roles with the NJCAA and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). She served six years as the NJCAA Region 16 Women's Assistant Region Director and served on the NJCAA committees for D1 Volleyball, Beach Volleyball and Awards. She spent the past three years as the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association president and is currently the association's D1 representative.
Wiedemann has been the two-year college representative on the AVCA board since 2019 and has served on the association's two-year college head coaches committee and the two-year college awards committee.
She was inducted into the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in April 2021.
"Being a servant leader is an important part of any team and program," Wiedemann said. "Being a part of the leadership teams within the NJCAA and the AVCA and working with other amazing coaches and leaders of our sport has been a tremendous opportunity for me. It has helped me grow in numerous areas, and I am thankful to many for their generosity of sharing their knowledge, their mentorship, and the many friendships that have come with it. These are definite roles of serving the volleyball community as a whole, which I am really proud to have been a part of."
Wiedemann's impact on Grizzly Volleyball, Grizzly Athletics and the MSU-WP community will be felt for years to come, and the hole left by her retirement will not be easily filled, university officials said.
"We'll not only be missing one of the best volleyball coaches in the country when she leaves on March 1, but for all of us on the West Plains campus, we'll be missing a great friend and colleague," said Chancellor Dennis Lancaster.
"Paula's infectious attitude about her work and her students have rubbed off on each and every one of us. She has helped us all touch the lives of so many young women, many of whom would never have had the chance to attend college, play a collegiate sport, nor hear about and enjoy living in West Plains and the United States. We'll miss her terribly, but we know she'll always be a Grizzly. We wish her all the best," the chancellor added.
"First, I would like to say thank you, Paula, for everything you have done for MSU-WP, not only for the athletic program, but for the college as a whole and for all the student-athletes whose lives you've touched along the way," Grizzly Athletic Director Rusty Laverentz said.
"Losing a great coach and an even better person is tough, but I am happy for Paula and thankful for the time I got to spend with her. I wish our collaboration could have lasted longer, but I learned a lot from her in our short time together and I wish her nothing but the best in her future," Laverentz added.
"Paula is the pillar of Grizzly Athletics, having been here since nearly the beginning," said Rachel Peterson, director of development and annual giving. "She's a legendary volleyball coach, known regionally, nationally and internationally. She's a champion for student-athletes as evidenced by the hundreds of alumni still supporting the program. And she's a friend. What she's done for volleyball in this area and Grizzly Athletics as a whole is irreplaceable. On behalf of the Grizzly Booster Club, we thank her for her decades of high energy, entertaining, championship volleyball and we wish her all the best in retirement."
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