BEAUMONT, Texas - Mississippi State (3-4) hits a sizzling season-best .538 Friday night in racing to a straight sets win (25-18, 25-22, 25-18) over the host Lamar Cardinals in the opening round of the MCM Elegante' Invitational.
Senior outside hitter Caitlin Rance, playing in the shadows of her Kingwood, Texas, home, tallied a match-high 20 kills to lead the Bulldogs to their tourney-opening win. Rance delivered 11 kills in the opening set and finished with her third 20-kill performance of the season and a .348 attack percentage. She also paced State at the net with a match-best three blocks.
The Bulldogs continue tournament play Saturday, taking on Baylor (7-1) at 10 a.m. and Texas-El Paso (8-1) at 4:30 p.m.
"This was another solid all-around match to build on," said MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "We stayed steady and took care of our game plan tonight. Caitlin (Rance) had another amazing performance and did a lot to carry us tonight. We've got some things we need to continue to improve on, but it was a good start to the weekend."
Freshman Lainey Wyman of Plainfield, Ill., had nine kills on a season-best .471 hitting night while junior right side Faith Steinwedell from La Jolla, Calif., hit .538 with eight kills and but one attack error.
Sophomore setter Paris Perret from Frisco, Texas, directed the Bulldog offense with 40 assist while freshman libero Bentley Witte of Arlington, Texas, finished the night with a match-high 15 digs.
The Cardinals (1-8) were paced by Sierra Whittaker's 10 kills.
State opens SEC competition next weekend at the Newell-Grissom Building. The Bulldogs host No. 7 Florida Friday at 7 p.m. and SEC East foe South Carolina Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's men's tennis team tied a school record with four singles players in the 2011-12 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Preseason National Rankings, released Friday by the ITA. State joins only two other schools nationally (Ohio State and Virginia) with four or more players in the preseason top 75, and is the only school in the Southeastern Conference with that distinction.
Bulldogs George Coupland (27th), Louis Cant (36th), Malte Stropp (46th) and James Chaudry (73rd) represented MSU in the singles rankings, tying the school record for the most players in the singles rankings on any given date. Coupland and Cant were second-team, all-SEC selections in 2011 while Stropp was named the 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year and 2011 Southern Region Rookie of the Year.
In Friday's doubles rankings, State placed one duo in the top 10, as Cant and Stropp are the country's seventh-ranked doubles tandem entering 2011-12.
Bulldog senior Artem Ilyushin, expected to be State's top returning player this year, was not ranked Friday as he will not compete this fall, but will return for the spring 2012 season with MSU. He finished last season ranked 59th in singles and was a mainstay in doubles rankings as well, earning second-team, all-SEC laurels.
"We are very honored by these rankings," MSU head coach Per Nilsson, the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year, said. "But they are preseason rankings. Our goal is obviously to be there at the end of the year and that's what we will work very hard to do this season."
Mississippi State's men's tennis squad is primed for a big year after a successful 2010-11 campaign and experienced talent returning. Last season saw the Bulldogs finish ranked 20th nationally as a team, claim the SEC Western Division crown, post their best record in 13 years, and make the program's 20th all-time NCAA appearance.
Also announced Friday were selections to the 2011 ITA Men's All-American Championships to be played Oct. 1-9 in Tulsa, Okla. The All-American is one of three major national tournaments during the year (joining the ITA National Indoors and NCAA Championships). MSU's Coupland and Cant have been entered into the main draw of the event in singles while Cant and Stropp will team to compete in the doubles main draw. In qualifying competition, Stropp and Chaudry will compete for the Bulldogs in singles and Coupland will pair with Zach White in doubles. White has also been entered into the prequalifying singles draw.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Junior Madison McKee scored the golden goal with 1:06 remaining in overtime as Mississippi State's soccer team opened the Bulldog Classic and the 2011 home slate with a 1-0 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Sophomore Elisabeth Sullivan's shot toward the top shelf was deflected by UAPB goalkeeper Olivia Wood, but the ball dropped at the feet of McKee in front of the goal for the put-back.
"Elisabeth Sullivan had a very good game. That goal came off of her effort, and I was just there to place it in the back of the net," McKee, a Clinton, Miss., native said.
McKee's goal, her first of the season and the fourth of her career, improved the Dawgs to 2-3-0 on the season. UAPB fell to 0-3-0 with the setback.
Junior goalkeeper Skylar Rosson stopped a pair of shots to post her second-straight shutout.
Mississippi State dominated possession, out-shooting the Golden Lions 23-11.
"I thought we played really, really well the 99 minutes we were out there tonight. It was a very disciplined performance from the front line to the back. They were a very physical team, but we stayed focused and got a deserved victory," Bulldog head coach Neil Macdonald said. "Our team is playing with a lot of confidence right now. We feel good about the direction we are heading, and we are together as a group, which hopefully will keep us moving forward."
McKee's winning score came after the Bulldogs missed on numerous opportunities in regulation.
The Dawgs failed to convert on their lone attempts on target in the first half. In the final 20 minutes of the half, freshman Dana Forbes made a splendid run down the right side, cut toward the goal and fired a shot that caught the underside of the crossbar.
Three minutes later, McKee put an effort between the posts that Golden Lion goalkeeper Olivia Wood, who stopped five shots, corralled to send the 0-0 tie to halftime.
The Dawgs continued to apply the offensive pressure in the second half, out-shooting UAPB 12-8 in the final stanza.
Junior Jasmine Simmons created a chance three minutes into the half, but the shot was deflected by Wood to Forbes for a follow-up attempt that was blocked.
Sullivan beat Wood with a winning opportunity in the 76th minute, but her shot clipped the post and sailed away from the target.
State plays Lipscomb at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Bulldog Classic championship game. The Lady Bisons defeated Southern Miss 3-1 in the tournament opener.