STARKVILLE, Miss. --- Preseason SEC Western Division favorite Alabama played up to its billing Wednesday night, spoiling Mississippi State's SEC home opener with a straight-sets win at the Newell-Grissom Building.
The Crimson Tide (6-6, 3-0 SEC) bested State 30-27 in the opening game, erased a 10-point Mississippi State lead and fought off four game-point serves for a 36-34 win in game two, and then nailed down the match and a third straight league win with a 30-22 game three victory. It was the fourth consecutive setback for the Bulldogs (5-7, 0-3 SEC).
Cristina Jucan paced the Bulldogs with 15 kills on a solid .290 hitting night. But Alabama countered with three players with double digit totals in kills. All-SEC senior middle Crystal Hudson delivered a match-high 18 kills, eight in the deciding third game. Alabama used a 6-1 run to erase an 8-7 State lead. Hudson closed out the set and the match with four straight kills.
Mississippi State's best chances for a second straight home win over Alabama appeared bright in the second stanza when the Bulldogs took a 22-12 lead on a kill by Eva Kriegel. But the Tide chipped away at the MSU lead, pulling even at 29-29 and scoring three of the game's final four points to win in a 36-34 thriller that featured seven serves at game point.
"We didn't show the toughness tonight that you need to compete against a solid team like Alabama," said MSU head coach Tina Seals. "We let that second game slip away, and Alabama took the momentum and ran with it."
Serving woes plagued both teams, with the Bulldogs and the Tide combining for 29 service errors, 16 by State.
Alabama hit an efficient .367 for the match and held a 55-47 edge in kills and a 46-33 advantage in digs.
Behind Jucan, senior setter Eva Kriegel and freshman Ashley Newsome had seven kills apiece. Kriegel and senior libero Megan Lukasek registered seven digs each. With three aces, all in the opening set, Kriegel raised her career total to 125, moving into a tie for 10th with Patty Hepler (1985-86) among MSU's career leaders in service aces.
State returns to SEC action on the homecourt Friday night, hosting SEC West foe Arkansas (6-6, 0-2 SEC) in a 7 p.m. match at the Newell-Grissom Building.
Student-Athlete Advisory Council
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State University Student-Athlete Advisory Council will join forces with other Southeastern Conference schools to help support regional food banks later this month during the Together We CAN Drive. Canned food items raised from the event will benefit church pantries in the Starkville area.
Fans will have the opportunity to help support the drive at four athletic events during the weekend of Sept. 21-23. Beginning two hours prior to MState's soccer and volleyball games on Friday, Sept. 21, SAAC members will be setup at both the MSU Soccer Field and in front of the Newell-Grissom Building to take donations. Another table will be setup at FanFair prior to the start of the Bulldogs' Saturday football game with Gardner-Webb. The last opportunity to donate begins Sunday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m., two hours prior to the MSU fall softball game.
"The ‘Together We CAN Drive' is a commitment of the character of the young people who are student-athletes in the Southeastern Conference," said Associate Athletic Director/Women's Sports Ann Carr, who oversees student-athlete community service efforts. "This project is about collecting for those in need and giving back to a community which has embraced each of these schools. The ‘Together We CAN Drive' is a footprint of what this league is all about – setting standards and paving the way for others."
For more information on the drive, please contact the Mississippi State Athletic Department at (662) 325-2532.