News from MSU Media Relations--Sept. 10

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Volleyball, Soccer and Men's Tennis.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - A stellar under-the-net pursuit play in Mississippi State's season-opening volleyball win over the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans August 27 is one of three finalists for the initial Volleyball Market/AVCA Play of the Week. The award, coordinated by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, is voted on by coaches, players, fans and the general public, with each winning AVCA Play of the Week advancing to AVCA Play of the Year honors.

Fans can view the nominated plays and vote online at The weekly voting deadline is 10 a.m. CT Tuesday, with the winning play announced by the AVCA each Wednesday.

In the play, Bulldog libero Kayla Woodard dug a hard-hit attack by UALR that sailed over the net but beyond the court playing area. But before the ball could fall out of bounds, two-time SEC Freshman of the Week Paris Perret raced under the net to pursue the ball, returning the ball to play on the Mississippi State side of the court, where junior outside hitter Faith Steinwedell kept the play alive with an attack.

The incredible play had a Newell-Grissom Building crowd-pleasing finish for the Bulldogs. Senior middle blocker Ashley Newsome delivered a play-ending block as State went on to win the deciding third set en route to their seventh consecutive season-opening win.

"It's such a rare play in volleyball - I've seen it only once before in a televised international volleyball match," said second-year Bulldog coach Jenny Hazelwood. "The NCAA changed the rules this year allowing players to go under the net to pursue the ball. And since Paris' play came in the first match on opening day after the rule change, it is likely that this is an NCAA-first."

"I hope our fans will go online and watch the video of the play and then vote for it as the play of the week," she said. "Our crowd went crazy when we won that point, but they probably didn't know about the play's significance."

CARBONDALE, Ill. --- Mississippi State saw its season-opening win streak snapped at seven matches Friday night as the Southern Illinois Salukis (6-1) topped the Bulldogs (7-1) in straight sets in the opening round of the SIU Saluki Invitational.

SIU, in its first home competition of the season, held the Bulldogs to a season-low 28 kills in taking the tourney-opener 25-22, 25-18, 25-21 before 432 fans at Davies Hall.

"Southern Illinois played well in their home-opener tonight and had a great crowd behind them tonight," said MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "We seemed to lack focus tonight and didn't take care of the little things the way we have the first two weekends. With a short turnaround before our next match tomorrow morning, we've got to put this one behind us quickly and get our focus back."

Saluki senior outside hitter Jennifer Berwanger was the lone player to reach double figures in kills for the match, tallying 14. Alicia Johnson tallied eight.

Bulldog senior Ashley Newsome led Mississippi State with nine kills and four total blocks, including her 58th and 59th career solo stops. Caitlin Rance, the SEC kills leader heading into the weekend, finished with seven kills.

Senior libero Kayla Woodard finished with 10 digs as the Bulldogs and Salukis finished with 42 digs each.

SIU built out a nine-point lead at 16-7 in the opening set before the Bulldogs, riding a four-kill spree by Newsome, reeled off nine straight points, closing the gap to a single point. But State could get no closer before bowing 25-22.

Newsome opened the second set with a kill for an early MSU lead. But after a 5-5 tie, the Salukis controlled play, hitting at a match-best .258 clip and forcing nine MSU attack errors in posting a 25-18 decision to take a 2-0 advantage in the match.

The two teams came back form the break battling on near even terms throughout much of the third set. State threatened to force a fourth set, taking a 16-15 advantage. But SIU regained the upper hand with a 6-1 run and a six-kill showing by Berwanger helped power the Salukis to a match-clinching 25-21 win.

The Bulldogs conclude their third and final early-season tournament Saturday, meeting South Florida (3-4) at 10 a.m. and Southeast Missouri (2-5) at 5 p.m.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Rachel Wannek's header in the 84th minute carried the Mississippi State soccer team to a 2-1 win against Jackson State Friday night at the MSU Soccer Field.

State, playing its fourth match in an eight-day span, improved to 6-1-0 as it won its fifth-straight match. Jackson State fell to 1-3-1 on the year.

"The one positive about tonight was that we found a way to win despite not playing our best soccer," Mississippi State head coach Neil Macdonald said. "We looked very tired tonight, and I think playing four games in eight days affected us."

Wannek's game-winner, her second of the season and fourth goal overall, gives her 10 points in MSU's last three matches.

"It was good to get the win tonight. We moved faster, allowing Dani (Danielle Kite) to get open. She put a great ball in the box, and I just happened to be there. It was a great team effort," Wannek said.

Senior Danielle Kite took the ball and sprinted up the right sideline. The Hornchurch, England, native fired a ball across the box to a wide-open Wannek for the header into the right side of the net.

JSU finished the second half with two more shots after the Dawgs, the SEC shots leader, took a 14-5 shot advantage in the opening half to take a 1-0 lead to the intermission.

Freshman Elisabeth Sullivan scored her third goal of the season to give Mississippi State the initial lead at the 36:04 mark in the opening half.

The Bulldogs tried to hit the Memphis, Tenn., native with a pass over the top. The ball deflected off a JSU defender right to Sullivan, who fired the ball past the goalkeeper to give State a 1-0 lead that it would take to the half.

Jackson State put three attempts on goal in the first half, but had their best scoring opportunity turned away by stellar goalkeeping from freshman Abby Risner, who was seeing her first career action.

Risner deflected a JSU cross attempt, but the ball deflected to a Tiger with only a Bulldog defender standing on the line. Renner appeared to be on the way to getting Jackson State on the board, but Risner ran in and made the save.

Risner, a Bentonville, Ark., native, stopped five shots in her MSU debut.

State was just inches shy of another first-half goal in the 18th minute. Jasmine Simmons fired a ball inside the box that hit off the post. She recovered the rebound, but her follow-up attempt was snagged by JSU keeper Allison Lane, who stopped four shots.

The Bulldogs hit the road next weekend, traveling to Oklahoma State on Friday and Oral Roberts on Sunday.

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State men's tennis team has its strongest presence in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings in nearly 10 years, based on the preseason rankings released Friday.

The Bulldogs have three players ranked in the top 80s in singles, one doubles team in the top 15 and one top 10 ranked freshman. Louis Cant, a junior for the Bulldogs, finished last season at 59th nationally, but enters this fall ranked No. 38 in the country. Junior George Coupland of MSU improved his ranking by 26 spots, starting at 56th in the preseason after finishing 79th last season. Artem Ilyushin, a junior for MState, rounds out the Bulldogs ranked singles players, standing at No. 79 in the country and finished last season 110th. In doubles, the Bulldog tandem of Coupland and Ilyushin begin the season 15 spots better than they ended last year, chiming in at 11th in the country after finishing at No. 26 last season. In the newly featured freshman rankings by ITA, Bulldog newcomer Malte Stropp of Dusseldorf, Germany, is listed as the No. 10 ranked freshman nationally.

Virginia and defending NCAA national champions Southern California are the only two other schools in the country that achieved three players ranked among the top 80 nationally in singles, one doubles team ranked inside the top 15 in doubles and one freshman ranked in the top 10 of the newly featured ITA freshman singles rankings. The Bulldogs are also a part of the exclusive list of schools that achieved three top 80 players in singles, joining Stanford, Georgia Tech, Virginia, USC and North Carolina.

The achievement of having three players ranked in the top 80 nationally and a doubles team among the top 15 marks the first time it has happened at MSU since the final rankings of 2001. That season the Bulldog team finished 14th nationally while Marco Baron finished No. 1 in the country, Romain Ambert finished 33rd, Rene`-Charles Combette finished 59th and the duo of Baron and Chris McDonald finished the 2001 season at No. 14.

"It is a great honor to receive these rankings that reflect these guy's individual accomplishments," said fourth-year head coach Per Nilsson. "It is also important to note that this is a reflection of the improvement of this team and program. Having three players ranked that highly in singles and Malte (Stropp) being ranked as a freshman shows the depth we have been able to build here at Mississippi State. I am excited to see us to continue to improve and back up these rankings as the fall season progresses."

The Bulldogs serve up their fall season opener at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens, Ga., on Sept. 24.

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