BEAUMONT, Texas - Mississippi State rallied to overcome a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-2 win over Texas-El Paso Saturday and claim the championship of the two-day MCM Elegante' Invitational hosted by Lamar University. The win (22-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-16, 15-9) over the Miners (9-2) completed a three-match weekend tournament sweep for the Bulldogs (5-4), who have now won their last four matches.
"I am so very proud of this team and the way they fought through so many things today," said third-year MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "We intentionally scheduled some tough pre-conference tournaments so that we'd face difficult situations, and the kids showed some mental toughness in beating two very fine teams today."
State opened the day with a 3-1 win over the Baylor Bears (7-2).
Senior outside hitter Caitlin Rance, who finished the weekend with 66 kills (5.50 d/g), 25 digs and eight blocks, was selected tournament MVP. MSU's two middle blockers, freshman Lainey Wyman and senior Hannah Wilkinson joined Rance on the all-tournament team.
"Caitlin was a player on a mission," said Hazelwood. "And her success opened up some things for a lot of other players. Lainey and Hannah had the kind of weekend we hoped to see. When the middles are producing, it puts a lot of pressure on the opponents."
Wyman had 38 kills, hit at a .351 clip and delivered 11 blocks. Wilkinson tallied 25 kills, hit .500 for the weekend and delivered 14 blocks.
The Bulldogs stayed close with UTEP through much of the early going of the match, tied at 22-22 in the first set and 23-23 in the second set. In both instances, the Miners, riding the 23-give performance of Bridget Logan, muscled through for close wins.
But State turned it around in the third set, hitting .265 and never falling behind in taking a 25-21 win. The Bulldogs, with eight kills by Rance and four kills and four blocks by Wyman, bolted to a 4-1 lead in the fourth stanza and then out-pointed the Miners 9-1 down the stretch to even the match with a 25-16 win. That momentum carried over in the deciding fifth set as State pulled away from a 9-9 deadlock with a 6-0 run to claim the tournament title.
Rance shared match honors with her second straight 23-kill effort and her fourth straight 20-kill performance. It raised her SEC-leading kills total to 164 after nine matches. Wyman delivered a season-high 17 kills backed with a season-best tying nine blocks while junior outside hitter Chanelle Baker registered her second double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs. Wilkinson finished with nine kills on an efficient team-leading .368 hitting display and backed that with six blocks. The offense was engineered by sophomore setter Paris Perret, who reached a career-best with 60 assists and notched her fourth double-double when she added 10 digs. Freshman libero Bentley Witte topped the Bulldogs on defense with 15 kills.
In Saturday's opening match, four Bulldogs reached double figures in kills as Mississippi State turned back Big 12 Conference foe Baylor 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20).
Rance led the charge and notched her team-leading fourth double-double of the campaign with 23 kills and 12 digs. It was the second-highest career kills total for Rance.
But the Kingwood, Texas, product had plenty of support in the win against the Bears.
Hannah Wilkinson tallied a career-best 12 kills with no errors in a .667 hitting display that included a match-leading six blocks. Freshman Lainey Wyman also totaled a dozen kills and hit a crisp .476 while Faith Steinwedell chipped in 11 kills and three blocks. Sophomore setter dished out 53 assists while freshman libero Bentley Witte led the Bulldog defensive effort with 14 digs.
State was most impressive in winning the matching-clinch fourth set. State piled up 21 kills and hit a match-best .436. The Bulldogs did not trail after a kill by Rance broke a 9-9 deadlock.
Baylor hit .286 for the match and got 14 kills from Briana Tolbert and 13 more from Adri Nora.
Mississippi State opens SEC competition at the Newell-Grissom Building next weekend, playing host to No. 7 Florida Friday (7 p.m.) and South Carolina Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State and Lipscomb meet with the Bulldog Classic championship on the line Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the MSU Soccer Field.
In addition to clinching the tournament championship, coach Neil Macdonald's Dawgs (2-3-0) can clinch their third-straight win and move to the .500 mark on the season.
Mississippi State secured a spot in the championship game thanks to a thrilling 1-0 overtime win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Friday night's home opener.
Junior Madison McKee clinched the victory with a 99th-minute put back on a deflected shot by sophomore Elisabeth Sullivan.
McKee joined Sullivan and freshman Amy Hoover in tallying a goal this season.
Sullivan's assist on the McKee winner gave her the overall points lead with three. The Memphis, Tenn., native posted the winning assist a week after defeating Jackson State with the game-clinching goal.
Redshirt junior Skylar Rosson turned away a pair of Arkansas-Pine Bluff shots Friday night to notch her second-straight shutout. The Edmond, Okla., native has saved 33 shots for a 1.57 goals-against average this season.
Rosson and her Bulldog teammates face a Lipscomb attack that scored three second-half goals in a tournament-opening win against Southern Mississippi.
The Lady Bisons, who sit at 2-3-1 this season, were paced by a two-goal effort from Meghan McGuire. McGuire has scored four of her team's seven goals this season.
Goalkeeper Erin Zerio made four saves in Friday's victory. She has played every minute in goal this season, stopping 24 shots while surrendering seven goals.
Admission to all matches at the MSU Soccer Field is free. A free, live video stream for Sunday's match will be available at mstateathletics.com/m2mlive. Fans can also follow Bulldog soccer on Twitter at twitter.com/mstateSOC and Facebook at facebook.com/mstateSOC.