News from MSU Media Relations--February 7

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Men's Tennis, Women's Basketball and Softball.

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State men's tennis team will continue its dual-match slate Thursday, as they travel to Jackson, Miss., to take on arch rival and fifth-ranked Mississippi in the annual River Hills Cup. Set for a 5 p.m. CT start, the event will take place at the River Hills Club.

The Bulldog netmen are coming off a season-opening win over UAB in Starkville this past weekend. Leading the charge for State are seniors Philippe Frayssinoux and Ivan Bjelica along with junior Ryan Farlow. Frayssinoux is 15-3 this season while Bjelica is 5-1. Farlow captured his first career win at the #3 position in the season opener, as he moved to 11-7 this year.

"Obviously this match will be a big challenge for us," said MSU head coach Per Nilsson. "They have one of the best teams in the country this year and we must play our best to have a shot. It will be a great opportunity for our team and we are ready to get out there."

Mississippi comes into Thursday's matchup with a 3-1 record this season. The fifth-ranked Rebels are coming off a 6-1 win over 23rd-ranked Tulsa last weekend. UM is led by Matthias Wellermann and Erling Tveit. In the latest individual rankings, Wellermann is ranked fifth while Tveit is 26th.

UM holds a 39-22 record over State in the all-time series dating back to 1970. The Rebels have won eight straight in the River Hills matchup and have won 19 straight in the overall series. To order tickets to the River Hills Cup, call (601) 987-4438.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State women's basketball team (14-8, 2-5 SEC) plays host to second- ranked Tennessee ( 20-1, 7-0 SEC) Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum. Tipoff between the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Volunteers is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on CSS, with Jim Ellis and Robin Muller calling the action.

Thursday's game will mark the 10th time in the last two years the Lady Bulldogs have faced a ranked opponent. State's last victory over a Top-25 team came last season in a 73-71 thriller over then No.22 Mississippi.

Lady Bulldog Head Coach Sharon Fanning and Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt have met 31 times during their careers. The two served on the same staff at Tennessee, when Fanning served as a graduate assistant on the Lady Vol staff during the 1975-76 season.

Through seven conference games this season, MSU ranks near the top of the Southeastern Conference in offensive rebounds and three-point field goal percentage defense. The Lady Bulldogs average a league best 15.73 offensive boards per game, while holding opponents to just 28.8 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line, good for second in the conference.

Mississippi State is coming off a 68-42 loss at Auburn on Sunday. In the contest with the Tigers, the Lady Bulldogs were led by junior guard Marneshia Richard, who scored 12 points in the game. MSU is led by sophomores Alexis Rack and Tysheka Grimes. Both lead the team in scoring, averaging 11.7 points a contest. Grimes leads the team with an average of 6.4 boards a game and is coming off an eight rebound performance against Auburn. The forward is just four points shy of hitting the 500-mark for her career. Meanwhile, Rack leads the team with 58 three-pointers made on the year, and is 23rd in the nation with 2.6 three-point field goals per game.

Following last year's national championship run, Tennessee has suffered only one blemish during the 2007-08 season, dropping an overtime decision to Stanford earlier on the year. The Lady Vols are undefeated in conference play at 7-0, due much in part to all-American candidate Candace Parker. The junior leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.4 points and 8.5 boards per game. Tennessee is also led by senior Alexis Hornbuckle. The guard leads the Lady Vols in assists, steals and three-point field goal percentage. Hornbuckle is averaging just fewer than four assists and 2.5 steals per game, while shooting nearly 48 percent from behind the arc.

Mississippi State returns to Humphrey Coliseum Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008, to take on Florida. Tipoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT on SEC-TV. Fans attending are asked to wear pink in support of the national "Think Pink" effort.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State opens the 2008 softball season this weekend as it travels to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Cathedral City Kickoff.

State, who has won seven of its last eight season openers, opens the three-day tournament with 20th-ranked Oregon at 2:30 p.m. CST Friday and Cal State Northridge at 5 p.m. CST. The Bulldogs will face UC Riverside on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CST and San Diego State at 5:30 p.m. CST. MState closes out the opening weekend of play Sunday with an 11 a.m. CST showdown with California.

MSU returns 11 letterwinners, including six position starters and a pitcher, from last year's squad that finished 35-27 and advanced to an NCAA Regional for the sixth time, and fourth in the last five seasons. Six newcomers will see their first collegiate action this weekend.

The Bulldog offense returns reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger/NFCA First Team All-American Chelsea Bramlett along with senior all-SEC standouts Courtney Bures and Hayle Guess. The trio paced MSU in nearly every offensive category in 2007. Bramlett topped the squad in batting average (.386), runs (56) and stolen bases (46-of-50). Bures, a .354 hitter a year ago, paced MSU with 56 RBI and 13 doubles. She tied for second on the squad with four home runs, finishing the year two behind Guess' team-best six round-trippers. Guess hit a third-best .324 while scoring 44 runs and driving in 35 more.

Junior Kelsey Nurnberg returns with the most pitching experience, while freshmen Misty Flesher and Elizabeth Woolven will be counted on for valuable innings.

Sixth-year head coach Jay Miller's Bulldogs are 30-12 in season-opening tournaments, and they will open the season against a ranked foe for just the second time in school history. State opened the 2002 campaign with an 8-1 win over No. 17 Texas State at the Arizona State Fiesta Bowl Tournament.

MSU will open the year against a familiar face at the Cathedral City Kickoff. Oregon head coach Kathy Arendsen coached the Bulldogs from 1997-2002, guiding State to an SEC Tournament championship game appearance and two NCAA Regional berths while compiling a 220-160 record. The Ducks return seven starters and 13 letterwinners from last year's squad that won a school second-most 44 games. UO will be without standout infielder Jenn Salling, who is redshirting the season while training with the Canadian National Team, but it returns second team all-region performers Joanna Gail and Sari-Jane Jenkins along with 20-game winners Alicia Cook and Melissa Rice. Gail hit a career-best .281 a year ago, while Jenkins ranked second on the squad in batting average (.396) and tallied the school's second-best totals in hits (82), doubles (16) and stolen bases (38).

Cal State Northridge returns seven position starters and three pitchers from last year's NCAA Tournament squad. The Matadors will once again be keyed by Christina Saenz, who hit .363 with five home runs and 26 RBI. CSUN also returns top RBI and home run producer Amanda Peek to go along with 15-game winner Merecedes Lovato.

UC Riverside finished 2007 with a 16-37 record, but it returns nine starters with another year of experience. Marissa Alvidrez anchors an offense that hit a school-record 28 home runs last season, while Stephanie Marshall and Christin Soger return to the circle after combining for all 16 of the team's wins.

MSU will meet San Diego State for the third time, and the Aztecs will boast a veteran club with 11 starters back. All-Mountain West Conference selection Brittany Knudsen led the team as a freshman last season in average (.386) while tying for the team lead with four home runs. Two time all-conference selection Christina Ross anchors a trio of pitchers after she posted a 23-12 record and 1.90 ERA last season.

The Bulldogs close out the opening weekend with a second straight meeting with California. The Golden Bears, who dropped a 9-0 decision to MSU at the 2007 UNLV Desert Classic, return top average hitter Gina Leomiti (.354) despite the loss of last year's leading home run and RBI producer Alex Sutton. Marissa Drewrey, who won 11 games a year ago, bolsters the pitching staff for Diane Ninemire's squad.

Following the opening trip West, MSU opens the home slate with Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 13 before welcoming Wright State, Southern Illinois and Fordham for the Bulldog Round-Robin Feb. 15-17.

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