STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State came up short in its bid for back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked SEC volleyball opponents Sunday, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Tennessee Lady Vols at the Newell-Grissom Building. In winning 25-19, 25-18 and 28-26, UT improved to 16-3 overall and a league-best 9-1 in Southeastern Conference competition. After Friday's straight-sets win over No. 25 Kentucky, the Bulldogs, 10-9 overall, closed out the first half of their 20-match SEC schedule with a 5-5 league mark.
"Our focus wasn't what it was in Friday night's big win over Kentucky," said MSU coach Jenny Hazelwood. "But whenever you hold a team as talented as Tennessee below the .200 mark in hitting, you have to feel like to you've competed pretty well on defense."
Riding the 13-kill, 12-dig performance of Kelsey Robinson, the Lady Vols controlled play early in the match. Robinson, honored as the AVCA National Player of the Week last week, delivered 10 of her 13 kills in the first two sets. UT set the tone early on, hitting at a match-best .343 clip in the opening stanza and taking a 2-0 match lead at intermission without ever falling behind.
Despite a match-high 13 attack errors, Mississippi State held its own in a see-saw third set battle. Senior middle Hannah Wilkinson drilled four kills in the stanza and Dani McCree came off the bench to deliver back-to-back kills that put State at set point 25-24. But the Vols, in their third try at set point, got a game-winning swing by Carly Sahagian to end the match at 28-26 win.
Seniors Caitlin Rance and Wilkinson along with freshman Lainey Wyman had seven kills each to account for 21 of Mississippi State's 31 kills. The Bulldogs matched their season-high with 28 attack errors, leading to a campaign-low .025 attack percentage. Tennessee amassed a 10-7 lead in total team blocking, with freshmen Stephanie Stoll and Tiffany Baker, younger sister of MSU junior Chanelle Baker, sharing match honors with five blocks apiece.
Rance, held to single digits in kills for just the third time this season, eclipsed the 300 mark in kills for the season (302) and raised her career kills total to 997. She needs three kills to become the 10th player in MSU volleyball history to reach the 1,000-kill career milestone.
Junior libero Hillary Parker led State on defense and took match honors with 19 digs. With four blocks, Wyman raised her season total to 76 blocks, second-most in the SEC and second-most all-time among MSU freshmen.
"This was a big weekend for us competing against two of the better teams in our conference," said Hazelwood. "We know we have to continue to work hard to get better each time we play. But I like our position right now - we're 5-5 in the conference heading into the second half of the SEC season with some great opportunities to move the program forward in the weeks ahead."
Mississippi State, now 1-1/2 games behind SEC West leader LSU, resumes SEC play on the road this weekend with a Friday night match at South Carolina (10-9/1-8 SEC) and a Sunday afternoon battle at No. 13 Florida (15-3/8-1 SEC).
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State seniors Tarah Henderson, Kim Pettit, Serena Prendergast and Taylor Turnipseed have one more match at home on Thursday, but they will always remember their Senior Day.
Sophomore Elisabeth Sullivan scored 37 seconds after the opening whistle, the second-fastest goal in school history, and a Mississippi State defense led by 13 saves from Skylar Rosson made it stand as the Bulldogs upset No. 11 Florida 1-0 at the MSU Soccer Field.
Mississippi State defeated its highest-ranked opponent since the 2006 squad knocked off No. 8 Tennessee 3-2 at the MSU Soccer Field. State also knocked off its second ranked foe of the season, a mark that was last accomplished when the 2003 squad defeated No. 25 Missouri and a sixth-ranked Gators squad.
The Bulldogs improved to 5-8-3 overall and 2-5-1 in league play. The victory, combined with Alabama and Vanderbilt losses, puts the Dawgs into a tie for eighth in the race to the SEC Tournament, which will be played Nov. 2-6 in Orange Beach, Ala.
Sunday's win also marks the second-straight victory on Senior Day for the Bulldogs after last year's squad closed the season with a 2-1 win against Ole Miss.
Sullivan's goal was setup by freshman Amy Hoover. The Brookhaven, Miss., native stole a Florida pass in the midfield, then slipped a perfectly-placed service to Sullivan through the Florida back line. Sullivan dribbled down the left side and fired a shot from 16 yards out that beat UF keeper Taylor Burke to the left.
"Amy played a perfectly-placed ball between the defenders, and I just ran on to it," Sullivan said. "The defense did amazing. We couldn't have done it without them, and Skylar was a big part of that."
The goal was the fourth of the season and the 10th of the Memphis native's career. With 28 career points, Sullivan is now tied for 10th in the MSU record books.
"We've been working on pressuring the ball defensively a lot lately, and we turned it over in a key area of the field. Elisabeth released through and created a one-v-one opportunity. She's great in those situations and she stuck it," Neil Macdonald said.
Rosson and the Bulldog defense made the lead hold despite facing 24 shots from the Gators. Rosson stopped six shots in the opening half and seven more over the final 45 minutes.
The Edmond, Okla., native's 13 saves are her second-most this season. She tied for fifth in single-season school history with her fourth shutout of the year and third in career blank sheets with her seventh.
"It was great getting up so early because we could relax and play our game," Rosson said. "The defense did awesome. We stuck to the game plan the coaches set up, and we came out on top. This is probably the most exciting game I have ever played. It shows that we can play with anyone."
Sullivan had another chance three minutes after her first goal, but her shot was saved by Burke. The Gators countered, but Rosson snagged the attempt from Tahnai Annis.
Rosson turned away another attempt by Annis in the 15th minute and a shot by Erika Tymrak in the 23rd.
With just under 20 minutes left in the opening half, Henderson made a run toward the goal, but her attempt over a diving Burke carried just wide of target.
State denied a Florida scoring chance with five seconds remaining in the opening half. Carolina Trigilia headed a service toward the net, but Rosson deflected the ball wide of target to carry the 1-0 Bulldog lead to halftime.
With just over 36 minutes left, Florida's Annie Speese had a point-blank look at goal, but Rosson once again came up with the stop.
"The defensive effort was phenomenal. We had great team shape and incredible discipline going with runners," Macdonald said. "Skylar was outstanding in goal today."
Henderson came inches away from another strike in the 65th minute. The Martinez, Ga., native fired a ball from over 20 yards out that beat Burke before climbing just over the cross bar.
Sullivan had another scoring chance stopped in the 77th minute, but the Bulldogs made her early goal stand as Rosson stopped three on-goal opportunities by the Gators in the last nine minutes of the match.
Mississippi State hosts Kentucky at 7 p.m. Thursday to wrap the 2011 home slate. Admission to the match is free.
SHREVEPORT, La. - For the third event of the fall, the Mississippi State men's golf team heads to the Shreveport to take on 11th-ranked LSU in the David Toms Invitational at the par-72, 7,206-yard Southern Trace Country Club.
Along with LSU, the Bulldogs will face Ole Miss, Tulsa, SMU, Oklahoma, UL-Lafayette, South Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Lamar and Kansas State.
After back-to-back solid showings, MSU climbed into the 46th spot in GolfWeek's rankings and 51st in Golf Stat's.
Coach Clay Homan's lineup features Chad Ramey, Alex Rowland, Tyler Smith, Lee Heaton and Fletcher Johnson.
Ramey's 70.50 stroke average ranks him fourth in the SEC to start the season. The sophomore-standout leads the team in rounds under par (3), birdies (19) and eagles (2) and has been MSU's top finisher in four of the last five tournaments dating back to the 2010-11 season.
Rowland ranks 10th in the SEC in stroke average and second on the team, and his two Top 25's tie him for the MSU lead.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Smith has shown his potential after a couple of solid showings in his first two tournaments. His second-round 71 scoring clip is only second to Rowland's 67.
Heaton is appearing in his third tournament of the fall and is the team's most tenured player on the roster with 27 tournaments played.
Johnson is making his career debut on the Bayou. The Tupelo High School standout appeared in multiple state championships and even earned a tee time in the U.S. Amateur.
Live stats will be available through mstateathletics.com beginning at 8 a.m. CST with the Bulldogs set to tee off at 8:30 alongside Ole Miss and Lamar.
Fans can also follow Mississippi State golf on Twitter @mstateMG and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mstateMG.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - After dividing for the weekend's action, Mississippi State's cross country teams returned home with a victory and a lot of lessons learned.
"We got a lot of good race experience this weekend," coach Houston Franks said. "There are a few things we need to work on, but finishing in the top of the conference is still right there for our taking. There are just a few things we have got to get fixed before then."
On Saturday, MSU competed in the Choctaw Open in Clinton, where the Bulldogs navigated their way to victory in then men's 8K, while South Alabama was victorious in the women's 5K.
Jorge Villareal was the top finisher for the Bulldogs in the Open. The junior's time of 26:22.22 placed him second overall and led MSU to victory with a combined 33 points. Following Villareal across the line was Jacob Fuller (26:28.35) in fourth, Julian Duarte (26:49.76) in eighth, Connor Denison (2:51.52) in ninth and rounding out the top 10 was Andrew Harwell with a time of 26:53.74.
Claiming the Choctaw Open silver medal were the Lady Bulldogs, who finished the day with a total of 42 points. Carmen Brothers (18:57.05) led the way for the Maroon and White as she finished fourth, followed closely by Adrianna Poole (19:12.48) in fifth and Madeleine Takahashi (19:14.49) in sixth.
"I am really please with the way our athletes ran at the Choctaw Open," Franks stated. "They went down there and competed. At the end of the day, some of them really proved themselves and earned their way into spots for the SECs."
While action wrapped in Clinton, things were just getting underway in Terre Haute, Ind., as MSU competed Sunday in the Pre-National Invitational hosted by Indiana State. Achieving victory in the men's 8K was Colorado, as Florida State was the top finisher in the women's 6K.
Renee Masterson led the way for the Top 20 finishing Lady Bulldogs. Masterson (21:49), who finished 42nd out of almost 250 runners, paced MSU on their way to 499 points and an 18th place finish. Joining Masterson in the Top 100 runners was Anna Jarman (22:19) at 76 and Haley Greenwell (22:22) in 80th.
Crossing the line first for the 32nd place Bulldogs was John Valentine. The sophomore finished 120th with a time of 25:55, to guide the Maroon and White to a team total 862 points.P> "Overall we got some good experience from the Pre-National," Franks commented. "We have got to get more trust in ourselves and run with more aggression. We are not where we would love to be, but I think we are in a good position headed into the SEC Championships."
Next for MSU will be a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., on October 31, for the SEC Championships.