STARKVILLE, Miss. - Off to their best start since 2005, Mississippi State's Volleyball Bulldogs put their unblemished record on the line and face their stiffest tests of the young season this weekend in Carbondale, Ill., with competition in the SIU Saluki Invitational. State (7-0), in the middle of a season-longest eight-match road run, faces tourney-host Southern Illinois (5-1) Friday at 7 p.m. and closes out the two-day event Saturday against South Florida (2-4) at 10 a.m. and first-time volleyball opponent Southeast Missouri (2-4) at 5 p.m. Live stats for all three MSU matches will be linked online at www.MStateAthletics.com.
The Bulldogs, with all-tournament performances by outside hitter Caitlin Rance (Kingwood, Texas) and senior libero Kayla Woodard (Addison, Ala.), reeled off straight-set wins over Texas-Pan American and Louisiana Tech and clinched their second tournament title in as many weeks with a 3-1 win over host UT-Arlington last weekend. The Bulldogs ran their record to 7-0, the program's best start since the Bulldogs opened their 2005 campaign with nine straight wins. The 2000 Volleyball Bulldogs set the school standard for season-opening and overall consecutive wins with 11 consecutive victories.
Rance tallied 47 kills (4.70 k/s) with 23 digs and five blocks last weekend and now leads the SEC in total (105) and per-set average (4.52 k/s) kills. The MSU junior totaled an SEC season-high 25 kills in Saturday's title match against UTA, narrowly outdistancing senior teammate Ashley Newsome (Florence, Ala.). Newsome matched a career-best in the match with 22 kills and opens the week ranked third in the SEC with 85 kills and second in the league with 29 total blocks.
Earlier this week Woodard became the first Mississippi State player accorded SEC Volleyball Offensive or Defensive Player of the Week honors after averaging better than six digs in MSU's 10 sets played at the UTA tournament. Last weekend she became the 12th Bulldog player to reach the 1,000-dig milestone and enters this weekend's competition at No. 11 with 1,052 career digs. Woodard ranks second in the SEC in both total (126) and per-set average (5.48 d/s) digs and keys an MSU defense that currently leads the SEC in total (397) and per-set average (17.26 d/s) digs.
State's first-year setter Paris Perret (Frisco, Texas) continues to establish herself as one of the league's premier newcomers. Perret served up 113 scoring passes on the weekend, raising her season total to 243, including an SEC season-high 59 assists against UT Arlington. For her efforts and for the second consecutive week, she was honored as the SEC Volleyball Freshman of the Week. Only one other Bulldog freshman, Martina Gregusova (2006), has received the SEC's weekly honor for freshmen.
Freshmen Dani McCree (Rialto, Calif.) and Iwa Belisario (Ankeny, Iowa) drew their first career starts in last weekend's tournament. McCree registered her first seven career kills while Belisario piled up 19 digs in the championship match. Sophomore defensive specialist Kelsey Nichols (Hoover, Ala.) drew playing time in two matches at the Maverick Invitational to become the 12th Bulldog player to take the court this fall.
Ashley Newsome, one of two Bulldogs seniors in 2010, registered 18 total blocks (3 solos and 15 block assists) in the UTA tournament to climb among MSU's career blocking leaders. She ranks sixth with 57 career solos and seventh with 241 assisted blocks and is tied for seventh with 298 total blocks.
Mississippi State closes out its non-conference schedule Sept. 15 at Southern Miss before opening a 20-match Southeastern Conference schedule Sept. 19 with a televised match (Cox Sports TV, 1 p.m.) at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs open their 10-match home conference schedule Sept. 24-26 hosting SEC Western Division rivals Arkansas and defending league champ LSU at the Newell-Grissom Building.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the fourth consecutive year, student-athletes across the Southeastern Conference are joining forces to help the community. From Friday, September 17, thru Sunday, September 26, all 12 SEC schools will participate in the 2010 Together We CAN Drive, benefiting regional food banks and shelters.
The SEC will partner with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members from each SEC institution for the league-wide effort. The drive will be held at designated campus and community locations during the 10-day time period.
At Mississippi State, the collection point during the entire 10-day event will be established at the Templeton Athletic Academic Center. Dropoffs can be made there Monday-Thursday (8 a.m. - 7 p.m.) and Friday (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.). The building will be closed on weekends. Other locations may be announced at a later date.
For more information on MSU's Together We CAN effort, please contact Ann Carr at 662-325-2532.