Alabama V-Ball Defeats State 3-2

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State flirted with its first SEC weekend volleyball series sweep since 1996, but the Alabama Crimson Tide thundered back to erase a 2-0 deficit and claimed a hard-fought 3-2 decision at the Newell-Grissom Building.

State (10-5, 1-4 SEC), which topped Auburn 3-0 on Friday, claimed Sunday's first two frames in impressive fashion, 30-28 and 30-23, and twice served at game match point in the pivotal third game. But Bama (16-3, 4-1 SEC) rebounded in time to win game three 35-33 and rode the momentum swing to match-sealing 30-26 and 15-11 wins in games four and five.

"This was a lot like our match season-ending match here last year against Arkansas," said MSU head coach Tina Seals. "We jumped out to a 2-0 lead but we couldn't come up with enough plays to put the match away. Give Alabama a lot of credit. They have a great staff and a lot of tradition, and they were too much for us to handle once they got momentum on their side."

Alabama's big gun in the match was Bridget Fuentez, who hit at a team-best .422 clip while piling up a match-high 23 kills. Kelly Potter delivered 17 kills and Crystal Hudson pounded out 13 kills and six blocks.

MSU placed four players in double figures in kills, with outside hitters Orshi Kriegel and Rachel Cooper totaling 17 each. Kriegel added 13 digs to reach double-double status as did Cooper, who finished with 14 digs in the two-hour, thirty-six-minute marathon. Sophomore middle blocker Erin Seago set a career-high with 14 kills on a match-leading .545 hitting performance and paced MSU at the net with four blocks. Jamie Joyner finished with 13 kills.

Eva Kriegel led MSU on defense with 25 digs, the most by a bulldog defender this season. She also tallied 36 assists and with nine kills came within a kill of her fourth triple-double of the campaign. Megan Lukasek finished with 22 digs.

State trailed early in both the first and second games, falling behind 6-1 in the opening stanza and 4-1 in game two. MSU took its first lead of the match at 26-25 on a service ace by Lukasek, and Cooper's sixth kill of the opening game gave MSU a 30-28 win. The Bulldogs rebounded from a slow start in game two, taking their first lead at 10-9 lead on an Eva Kriegel. MSU used a 10-2 run midway in the frame to take control and used a match-best .366 hitting performance to seal a 30-23 win.

It was State that took the offensive early in game three as the Bulldogs raced out front 5-1. But Bama got State at 6-6 and the two teams battled on near-even terms for the remainder of the extended third game. MSU twice served at match point at 29-28 and 32-31 before Alabama, on its third serve at game point, picked up a 35-33 win on Sarah Snider's kill. Fuentez sparked the match-saving rally with eight kills.

MSU fell out of contention and never rebounded in game four, trailing from start to finish in a 30-26 set. Fuentez turned up the heat a notch with nine kills.

That forced a deciding fifth game, and MSU bolted to a 4-1 advantage early. A kill by Erin Seago gave State a 6-3 lead, but Alabama answered with a 5-0 run to take the lead. Breakdowns in passing by MSU enabled Bama to pull away from an 8-8 tie and a pair of kills by Kelley Potter finished off the 15-11 match-clinching win for the Crimson Tide.

It was the 13th consecutive series win for Alabama, now one of two SEC teams with 16 wins.

MSU continues SEC West play on the road this weekend. State travels to Baton Rouge, La., to face LSU (13-4, 3-3 SEC) at 6 p.m. Friday and then on to Fayetteville, Ark., Sunday for a 1:30 p.m. clash with the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks (11-6, 4-2 SEC).

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