Volleyball Bulldogs Open SEC Home Slate

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Off to a school-best start in league competition, Mississippi State's Volleyball Bulldogs are prepping for their 2004 SEC home debut this weekend at the Newell-Grissom Building.

The Bulldogs (9-7, 2-2 SEC) posted their second straight Friday night SEC road when last weekend, rallying past LSU 3-2 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge. MSU, tabbed by the league's coaches for a last-place finish in the SEC West, are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference's overall standings after two weekends.

"We're excited about our start in league competition," said first-year head coach and former MSU All-SEC performer Tina Seals. "Playing on the road in the SEC these first two weekends has been a challenge. And we know we have to keep getting better if we're going to be able to meet the many challenges that are still ahead of us."

State opens its eight-match Southeastern Conference home schedule on Homecoming Friday, tangling with the 18th-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers (14-1, 4-0 SEC) in a 7 p.m. match at the Newell-Grissom Building. The Lady Vols, who currently share the SEC top spot with perennial league power Florida, topped the Bulldogs in three games Sept. 26 in Knoxville, Tenn.

MSU then entertains the South Carolina Gamecocks (8-5, 1-3 SEC) in a Sunday matinee match at 2 p.m. There is no charge for admission to MSU's home matches and fans are invited to compete for prizes in the serving contest during the promotional break following game two of each match.

"I hope our students and fans in town for Homecoming this weekend will make plans to be at Newell-Grissom and to support the Volleyball Bulldogs," said Seals. "We'd like to have a great home crowd Friday night when we face one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee."

Junior outside hitter Rachel Cooper piled up 39 kills last weekend, a career-high matching 22 in State's victory over LSU. The Roscoe, Ill., native now has 839 career kills, just 35 away from attaining career top 10 status at MSU.

Mississippi State continues to lead the Southeastern Conference with 135 service aces, two shy of its season total from 2003. Three Bulldogs enter the week ranked among the SEC's top four in service aces: junior setter Andrea Mead (28), freshman Christa Fulenwider (25) and junior Orshi Kriegel (23).

The Bulldogs, who with nine wins have already tripled their 2003 win total, have matched last year's SEC win total after four road matches. Now into the second half of the 2004 season, the Bulldogs play eight of their next 10 matches on the home court at Newell-Grissom.

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