Confidence, steadiness under pressure, and a wicked block – those are some of the traits that come to mind when Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball fans think of Roselidah Obunaga.
The 5 ft., 10 in. middle attacker came to the Grizzlies in 2002 from Kenya's western province city of Kakamega. A member of the Kenyan national team that competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Obunaga followed her Olympic teammate, Edna Chumo, to West Plains for an opportunity to build a better life for herself and her daughter, Yonne, through her gifts on the court.
"Rose brought competitiveness and confidence to the Grizzlies because of the level at which she played in Kenya," Grizzly Head Volleyball Coach Paula Wiedemann recalled. "She had a way of making a team more confident just by her presence. She had a strong, confident demeanor that carried over to everyone else. When she joined Edna here, that duo made us one of the strongest teams on the court."
That was evident in the Grizzlies' first tournament of the 2002 season when Obunaga recorded 52 kills, just a few shy of her fellow Kenyan. She led the Grizzlies in blocks and digs at the Utah Valley Community College tournament a few days later, and she received one of her first all-tournament team honors at the Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic Tournament of Champions later that season. One of her best overall performances as a freshman came in the Region 16 Championship match against arch rival Jefferson College when she recorded a team-leading 32 kills and 7.5 blocks (four of which were solos) during the contest.
While Obunaga's performance in that match was noteworthy, the match that sticks out in the mind of former Grizzly Head Volleyball Coach Trish Kissiar-Knight is the national tournament semifinal match against Lee College. Lee had thwarted the Grizzlies' hopes of reaching the national championship match in 2001, and at times during the five-game thriller in 2002 it looked like they would do so again. But on match point, Obunaga went up on a Lee attacker's hit and blocked the ball into Lee's side of the court for the win. "When she blocked the ball to end that match against Lee in the semis, that reminded me of just how capable Rose is of turning a match around," Knight said.
"Rose really set the standard for being an all-around player," Wiedemann added. "Besides her ability to attack the ball, she was a tremendous blocker, especially for her size." Obunaga led the Grizzlies in blocking her freshman and sophomore years with 239 and 224 stops, respectively, and is second on the Grizzlies' all-time career list for blocking with 463.
Obunaga's sophomore year was just as successful, as she helped the Grizzlies get off to their best start ever at that time with 19 straight wins. She earned MVP honors at the Salt Lake Community College tournament with 95 kills and an attacking percentage of .491, and she set the tone for the season with her nearly flawless performance at the Illinois Central College tournament, during which she recorded only three hitting errors in four matches.
She also helped lead the Grizzlies to their fifth consecutive Region 16 championship and fifth consecutive berth in the national championship tournament, where, once again, she played a key role in getting the Grizzlies to the national championship match. To reach their goal, the Grizzlies had to face the defending national champion, Miami-Dade College, in the semifinals, and just like the previous year, the match turned into a five-game thriller that ended on a block by Obunaga. The win was the Grizzlies' first against this perennial national power.
By the time Obunaga graduated from Missouri State-West Plains in 2003 with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree, she had left quite a mark on the Grizzly record books. In addition to being second on the all-time career blocking list, she is second in career solo blocks (178), kills (1,302), attacking percentage (.444) and points earned (1,844). She is third in attacking attempts (2,333), seventh in digs (931), 12th in aces (79), and 13th in service reception (2.29). She also was a two-time, first-team NJCAA All-American honoree, a two-time, first-team All-Region 16 honoree and an AVCA All-American honoree.
Obunaga transferred to Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., where she averaged seven kills a game and led the Eagles to a 20-14 overall record and an 8-2 record in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, giving the Eagles co-ownership of the HAAC title in 2004. She earned second-team NAIA All-American, first-team NAIA All-Region V and first-team All-HAAC Conference honors.
In 2005, she transferred to Columbia College in Columbia, Mo., where she helped the Cougars reach a 35-4 overall record and earn a second-place finish in the NAIA Region V and NAIA National Tournaments. Her individual accolades included first-team American Midwest Conference, first-team NAIA Region 5, first-team NAIA National All-Tournament and first-team NAIA All-American honors. She led the team in kills (676), kills per game (5.08), blocks (185.5), solo blocks (105) and blocks per game (2).
Obunaga received her bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Columbia College and is currently working on an Associate of Applied Science in Child and Family Development degree at Missouri State-West Plains.
Obunaga said she is thrilled to be named to the Grizzly Hall of Fame. "It's exciting, and it makes me proud," she said. "In West Plains, I feel like I'm home. I've been attached to the community in many ways, and I have much gratitude for everyone who has helped me in any way. The First Baptist Church, Missouri State-West Plains, Coach Knight, Coach Wiedemann, the Grizzly Booster Club, and the fans, to everyone who has come up and shaken my hand and shown me support, you really mean a lot to me. Thank you so much for this honor."