STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State opens its 20th season of softball action this weekend in Las Vegas for the Sportco Kick-off Classic, hosted by UNLV.
The Bulldogs raise the curtain on the season Friday, challenging Illinois-Chicago at 11 a.m. CT and the host Rebels at 5:45 p.m.
Ninth-year coach Jay Miller's squad challenges No. 11 Washington, a Women's College World Series participant the past two seasons, at 11 a.m. Saturday. State closes Saturday's doubleheader against UC Riverside (1:15 p.m.) before wrapping the opening weekend with a rematch against UIC at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
The Bulldogs look to continue a recent string of success in season openers. The Dawgs are 6-2 in the opening game of the season under Miller, including victories in four of the last five.
MSU returns 14 letterwinners from last year's team, including eight starters and four pitchers.
Junior Ka'ili Smith enters her third season on campus looking to build on a career sophomore season in 2010. The Kapolei, Hawaii, native hit .329 in 2010, belting 10 home runs and adding 50 RBI.
Seniors Brittany Bell, Ali Bainbridge and Courtney Nesbit are seeking strong finishes to their MSU careers. Bell hit .295 last season and added four home runs and 27 RBI. The Brandon, Fla., native also finished second on the team with 13 stolen bases. Bell has also been hit by a pitch 29 times in her career, putting her just four shy of the school record held by Keri McCallum.
Bainbridge has been a fixture in the lineup through her first three seasons, having started all 174 games of her career. The Vestavia Hills, Ala., product hit .244 in 2010 and paced the team with 12 doubles while driving in 26 runs.
Nesbit enjoyed the best season of her career in 2010, as the Acworth, Ga., native hit.248 and added three home runs and 18 RBI.
Juniors Misty Flesher and Lindsey Dunlap pace a Bulldog pitching staff under the guidance of ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, and first-year assistant coach Alan Colglazier.
Flesher paced the Dawgs with 12 victories last season, putting her in seventh on the career wins chart with 32. Dunlap sits in 10th with 22 career wins.
Sophomores Kylie Vry and Stephanie Becker have both made tremendous strides in the circle after seeing immediate action as freshman a year ago.
The Bulldogs open a 25-game home slate next weekend as Butler, Louisiana Tech and Southern Illinois come to campus for the Feb. 18-20 Bulldog Round-Robin.
STARKVILLE, Miss - The Lady Bulldog tennis team (0-2) returns to action Friday, February 11 as they play host to Georgia State (3-0). Due to the winter weather Wednesday night, the match has been moved indoors to McCarthy Gym. Match time is slated for 2 p.m. CT.
"I am excited about our first home match this season," said MSU head coach Daryl Greenan. "We have been working extremely hard to get the girls ready for good competition and Georgia State will be a solid test for us this weekend."
In their spring opening matches, the Lady Bulldogs struggled to get things going in Tulsa where they dropped a 7-0 decision to the University of Tulsa and a 6-1 bout to Oklahoma State. A very strong presence came about from MSU freshman Alexandra Perper where she competed in the top spot of both matches for the Lady Bulldogs. In just her second match with Mississippi State, Perper took down Cowgirl Sarah Meghoufel 6-4, 6-3.
The Lady Bulldogs have gone with a young line-up this year, playing three freshmen in their first two matches. Perper, Roseline Dion and Vivian Pietraroia make up the rookie trio who has already shown promise for Mississippi State.
Meanwhile, Georgia State rolls into Starkville coming off a 6-3 victory over Emory in Atlanta, Ga. The Lady Panthers are undefeated on the season.
MSU leads the overall series 2-0 and met last season where the Lady Bulldogs toppled GSU 4-1.
This will be the lone match for the Lady Bulldogs this weekend but will play host to Southern Miss and Troy State next Saturday and Sunday. Admission to all Mississippi State home matches is free.
Live stats will be available at www.mstateathletics.com.
JACKSON, Miss. - In the 14th annual River Hills Cup, the Mississippi State men's tennis team dropped a tough 4-1 decision to the No. 17 ranked Ole Miss Rebels. The match was played at the River Hills Country Club in Jackson, Miss.
The No. 32 ranked Bulldogs (1-3), who faced their third top 25 opponents of the season, fell behind early to the Rebels (3-2) after dropping the doubles point. MSU's newcomer duo James Chaudry and Zach White had their two-match win streak snapped with an 8-4 setback at the No. 2 position against Ole Miss' Marcel Thiemann and Jonas Lutjen. The doubles point was clinched shortly after at the No. 3 slot where State's Louis Cant and Malte Stropp fell to the Rebel tandem Johan Backstrom and Adrain Forberg, 8-6. Play was then suspended at the No. 1 position where MSU's 53rd-ranked duo George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin trailed 7-6 to Kalle Norberg and Tucker Vorster of Ole Miss.
With the match being played on three indoor courts, positions one thru three took the courts first for singles action. At the No. 1 spot, State's Coupland suffered a straight-set defeat to No. 32 ranked Thiemann of the Rebels to give Ole Miss a 2-0 lead. State then trailed 3-0 when No. 60 nationally ranked Cant of MSU dropped a hard-fought battle to Ole Miss' 107th-ranked Vorster, 7-6(4), 6-4. The loss snapped a four-match win streak for Cant and it was his first setback of the spring season.
The Bulldogs got on the board at the No. 3 slot, where MSU's Ilyushin battled back after trailing a set to claim his fourth three-set victory this year with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, win over Ole Miss' Kalle Norberg to bring the Bulldogs within two of the Rebels.
With the final wave of singles matches being played MSU made things very interesting as momentum seemed to shift in the Bulldogs favor on courts four and five where State held leads on both courts when the match was finally clinched at the No. 6 spot. Bulldog freshman White dropped a 6-4, 6-2, decision to Ole Miss freshman Johan Backstrom to give the Rebels the 4-1 victory.
State freshman Stropp led Rebels' Lutjen, 3-6, 6-4, 3-2, at the No. 4 spot when play was suspended and MSU's Chaudry held a set lead at the No. 5 position when play was halted.
The Maroon and White will look to rebound this Saturday as they open their home slate with a 1 p.m. match against the Tulane Green Wave.