STARKVILLE, Miss. - New head softball coach Vann Stuedeman announced one of the most anticipated and challenging schedules in school history Wednesday, featuring battles against 14 NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago.
The new era of Bulldog softball is highlighted by home games against two Southeastern Conference squads that advanced to the 2011 Women's College World Series.
"It is going to be an absolute honor to put on the maroon and white and lead the Bulldog softball team this spring," Stuedeman said. "We look to ignite the city of Starkville and the people of our state with a challenging home schedule."
2012 Mississippi State Softball Schedule
The most compelling series of the season comes March 30-April 1, as Stuedeman leads her Dawgs at home against Alabama, where she spent the last 11 years helping guide the Crimson Tide to three SEC titles and six WCWS appearances. Alabama isn't the only intriguing conference opponent the Maroon and White will host, as 2011 WCWS runner-up Florida comes to town March 7 for a rare doubleheader midweek treat.
In addition to Alabama and Florida, 2011 NCAA Tournament teams Kentucky (April 20-22), Tennessee (March 23-25) and Georgia (March 9-11) also come to the friendly confines of the MSU Softball Stadium for conference action. Assistant coach Alan Reach is no stranger to the Bulldogs from Athens, as he served as an assistant coach for Georgia's 2004 squad that went 55-17.
Away from Starkville, the conference schedule contains no easy wins, as State will travel to 2011 NCAA Tournament squads LSU March 16-18 and Auburn to close out the regular season May 4-6. The Bulldogs play their first SEC road doubleheader during spring break at South Carolina March 13, while also making voyages up north to take on Arkansas (April 6-8) and in-state rival Ole Miss (April 13-15).
"There is not a more competitive conference in all of collegiate softball than the SEC," Stuedeman explained. "Our athletes know that it's going to be as tough as it's ever been, but they accept the size of that mountain and dare to climb it."
Before Stuedeman can get her team to conference play, a demanding February schedule greets the new era of Bulldog softball. Following the season opener at South Alabama on Feb. 9, the Bulldogs stay the night and begin a three-day tournament at USA Feb. 10-12, which includes a game against a Memphis Tigers' squad that made the Big Dance last season.
The Dawgs stay in Alabama Feb. 14 to play at Samford, serving as a homecoming of sorts for Birmingham natives Stuedeman, Reach, senior Lindsey Dunlap, junior Jessica Cooley and sophomore Shana Sherrod.
Starkville will finally get a chance to welcome in the new regime Feb. 17-19 at the annual Bulldog Round Robin, which features SIUE and Mississippi Valley State.
Sisters Brittany and Briana Bell, along with freshman Erika Gaul, will then bring their teammates to their native Sunshine State Feb. 24-26, for the NFCA Leadoff Classic at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex in Clearwater, Fla. The Dawgs won't have time for the beach however, as games await against 2011 NCAA teams Louisiana-Lafayette (Feb. 24), Georgia Tech (Feb. 25), DePaul (Feb. 25) and Michigan (Feb. 26). The team will also face local favorite South Florida on Feb. 24.
Other highlights from the 2012 tilt include a home-and-home series with NCAA Regional squad Jackson State (Feb. 29 in Jackson, April 10 in Starkville), the Bulldog Classic March 2-4 featuring Eastern Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Columbia and Samford, and a March 21 date with NCAA tourney squad UAB, the alma mater of assistant coach Beth Mullins. An All-Conference USA performer with the Blazers (2001-04), Mullins helped break 15 individual and team offensive records as an assistant coach there following her playing days, helping them to their first NCAA Regional appearance.
All good things must come to an end, as Senior Day will wrap up the 2012 home season on April 28 with a doubleheader against Tennessee Tech at 1 p.m. On that date, the program will honor current seniors Brittany Bell, Dunlap, Misty Flesher, Brittany Gates and Ka'ili Smith for their contributions to Bulldog softball.
In advance of the 2012 season, State looks to finish its fall exhibition season with a perfect record this Friday and Saturday. The Bulldogs (3-0) make their only out-of-state appearance of their fall exhibition schedule Friday in Irondale, Ala. (Birmingham area), for a 6 p.m. contest against Jacksonville State at the Shea Brothers Softball Complex. One day later in Starkville, MSU plays its only home date of the fall schedule – a 1 p.m. doubleheader against in-state foe Southern Miss. Whit Waide will throw out the first pitch, while two free tickets to the Mississippi State vs. Alabama football game Nov. 12 will be given away. For more information on the games this weekend and the start times for the spring schedule, fans are encouraged to follow the team via Facebook and Twitter for more information.
TARKVILLE, Miss. - With wins in four of its last six outings, Mississippi State (10-9/5-5 SEC) is eastbound this weekend, resuming SEC volleyball competition with matches at South Carolina and Florida. State takes on USC's Gamecocks (10-9/1-8 SEC) Friday at 6 p.m. (CT) in Columbia, S.C., and the 13th-ranked Florida Gators (15-3/8-1 SEC) in Gainesville, Fla., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CT).
The Bulldogs split their earlier meetings this season with this weekend's opponents. The Gators topped State in straight sets (25-20, 25-18, 26-24) on SEC opening night Sept. 16 in Starkville before the Bulldogs rebounded with a five-set Sunday win (25-16, 25-17, 23-25, 23-25, 15-8) over the Gamecocks.
At 5-5 in league play, Mississippi State begins its 2011 stretch run in second place in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division. The Bulldogs are 1-1/2 games behind defending divisional champion LSU (13-6/6-3 SEC) and a half-game ahead of Arkansas (12-8/4-5 SEC). MSU rates as one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 SEC volleyball campaign. Picked by league coaches to finish last in the SEC West, the Bulldogs have already surpassed their 2010 SEC win total (3) and need one win to equal the team's overall win total (11) from last fall. Additionally, MSU needs four more wins to better the school record for SEC wins (8-12 in 2006) and five wins to nail down the program's first winning campaign since the 2006 edition posted a 17-13 worksheet.
Senior outside hitter Caitlin Rance, who notched her ninth double-double of the year with 14 kills and 13 digs in MSU's straight-sets win over No. 25 Kentucky last Friday, enters the weekend with 997 career kills, three shy of becoming the 10th MSU player all-time to reach the 1,000-kill milestone.
The Bulldogs are back at the Newell-Grissom Building next weekend, hosting Arkansas Oct. 28 (7 p.m.) and LSU Oct. 30 (1 p.m.). The MSU-LSU match will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).
STARKVILLE, Miss. - With the final spot in the SEC Soccer Tournament on the line, Mississippi State hosts Kentucky at 7 p.m. in a huge conference showdown to cap the 2011 home campaign.
In addition to movie trivia and the Stromboli's soccer relay, fans can register to win gift cards from The Veranda and Harvey's.
Bulldog fans can follow Mississippi State soccer on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mstateSOC and Facebook at www.facebook.com/mstateSOC. A free, live video stream of the match will be available at www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive.
Mississippi State will be seeking to maintain its hold on the eighth slot in the SEC standings after claiming it with a thrilling 1-0 victory against No. 11 Florida last Sunday.
Sunday's upset improved the Bulldogs to 5-8-3 overall and 2-5-1 in league play. MSU's seven league points are tied with Alabama, but the Dawgs hold the tiebreaker based on goal differential after the two squads played to a 2-2 tie earlier in the season.
Junior goalkeeper Skylar Rosson was unbeatable between the posts for the Bulldogs against the nationally-ranked Gators. Rosson's 13-save shutout, her second against a ranked opponent this season, earned her SEC Defensive Player of the Week laurels.
Rosson, who has 103 saves this season, and the rest of the Bulldog defense will be looking to avenge a 5-1 setback to the Wildcats in Lexington a year ago.
MSU will be gunning for a repeat performance of the last meeting in Starkville, when State wrapped the 2009 home slate with a 2-0 victory.
Since starting the year with an impressive 7-1 non-conference slate, the 2011 Wildcats have posted a 4-4 conference mark heading into Thursday's match.
Kentucky has been led by junior forward Kelsey Hunyadi. Hunyadi has collected 24 points off eight goals and eight assists.
Mississippi State will be looking for another big showing from sophomore Elizabeth Sullivan. The Memphis, Tenn., native netted the winning goal against the Gators, her fourth score of the season, just 37 seconds after the opening whistle. In addition to her four goals, Sullivan has also tallied three assists for a team-high 11 points.
Sullivan's quartet of goals is tied with junior Jasmine Simmons for tops on the squad. Simmons, an Oklahoma City native, has also tallied one assist for nine points.
Following Thursday's match, the Bulldogs head to Nashville for a very important league contest against Vanderbilt on Sunday. Mississippi State holds a one-point lead over the Commodores in the SEC standings.
Vanderbilt travels to Ole Miss on Thursday before hosting the Dawgs at 2 p.m. Sunday.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's men's tennis squad is set for action in the USTA/ITA Southern Regional Indoor Championships beginning Thursday, Oct. 20, in Auburn, Ala.
Comprised of 19 teams and 87 players, the Southern Regionals is a qualifying tournament for the ITA National Indoor Championships, which will be held in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in November. This weekend's tournament will feature one singles draw and one doubles draw with consolation matches for singles only.
MSU will be travelling six players to Auburn. 27th-ranked senior George Coupland heads into this weekend's competition already having defeated three ranked opponents this fall. Senior Louis Cant, ranked 36th in the ITA polls, has comprised a 4-3 fall record against some tough competition.
State's 46th-ranked sophomore Malte Stropp, 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year, has also compiled a solid fall resume with deep runs into the consolation quarterfinals at the ITA All-Americans and Southern Intercollegiate quarters. Ranked #73 for the Bulldogs is junior James Chaudry who has assembled a 6-2 slate this fall with two top-50 wins and great run to qualify for the main draw at the All-Americans.
Sophomore Zach White is following up on an impressive showing from the All-Americans in Tulsa where he advanced to the qualifying rounds from pre-qualies. Also competing for MSU is redshirt freshman Trey Seymour who earned his first victory with the Bulldogs in the Southern Intercollegiates.
Singles play will begin Thursday at 8 a.m. CT at Auburn's Yarbrough Tennis Center.