News from MSU Media Relations--September 18

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Cross Country, Volleyball, Soccer and Softball.

Cross Country
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State men's and women's cross country teams return to their home course Saturday, Sept. 20, to host the MSU Invitational. The men will run an 8K at 8 a.m., followed by the women running a 5K at 8:45 a.m.

Coming off first place finishes at the Sewanee Invitational two weeks ago, both teams look to dominate on their home course. Also this weekend both teams will line up against their first SEC opponents of the season - Ole Miss and LSU.

"Anytime you get a chance to run against Ole Miss and LSU at this time of the year is good," MSU coach Al Schmidt said. "Each meet we like to get tougher and tougher competition, and it will be a good chance to see where we are at."

Not only will the teams get a chance to compete against tough SEC opponents, the women will also run against Northwestern, a top team from the Big 10 Conference.

Other schools participating in the MSU Invitational are Arkansas - Pine Bluff and Jackson State.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State launches its 26th season of Southeastern Conference volleyball competition this weekend, hitting the road for interdivisional matches against Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Bulldogs (5-6) take on UT's Lady Vols (5-4) Friday in a 6 p.m. (CDT) match at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. State then travels on to Lexington, Ky., for a 12:30 p.m. (CDT) Sunday match against the Wildcats (9-2) at UK's Memorial Coliseum.

Mississippi State is led by veteran outside hitters Ioana Demian (Baia Mare, Romania) and Cristina Jucan (Cluj, Romania). Demian, one of four Bulldogs to have started all 11 matches during the non-conference portion of the 2008 schedule, leads State with 111 kills and 15 service aces and ranks second on the club with 87 digs. Jucan, the only senior on State's '08 edition, has registered 105 kills, raising her career kills total to a team-leading 705 in four seasons.

Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Newsome (Florence, Ala.) has also emerged as a force at the net for the Bulldogs, ranking third on the club with 74 kills and an SEC-leading 49 total blocks.

Freshman outside hitter Faith Steinwedell (LaJolla, Calif.), named to the all-tournament team at last weekend's MSU Bulldog Club Invitational, and middle hitter Mandy Mellencamp (Prescott, Ariz.), have also drawn game-opening assignments in all 11 MSU matches this fall. Steinwedell has recorded 70 kills, 11 aces, 67 digs and 24 total blocks, while Mellencamp sports a team-best .291 attack percentage and ranks second on the club with 12 aces. The Bulldogs have served up an SEC-leading 75 aces through 11 matches.

State opens its 20-match league schedule against the SEC's top two blocking team teams. UK averages 2.59 blocks per set while Tennessee is just off the pace at 2.54. The Wildcats also own the early-season league lead with 13.92 kills per set.

Following the Tennessee-Kentucky road trip, the Volleyball bulldogs are home for three consecutive league matches, beginning Sept. 28 with a Sunday matinee match against Western Division rival Auburn at the Newell-Grissom Building.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Fresh off claiming the program's second regular-season tournament championship last weekend, the MississippiState soccer team returns home Friday night to host Memphis in a 7 p.m. kickoff at the MSU Soccer Field.

Friday night is being billed as "White out the Tigers" night, with fans being encouraged to wear white in support of the Bulldogs. The first 100 fans in attendance will receive a free MState water bottle, and face-painting and a post-match autograph session will also be included in the evening's festivities. Admission to all MSU home soccer matches is free.

The Bulldogs (4-3) return to the home pitch riding a huge wave of momentum after capturing the South Alabama Soccer Tournament championship in Mobile last weekend with wins over the host Jaguars (1-0) and NichollsState (8-0). State's eight goals in Sunday's finale tied the 1996 squad (vs. McNeeseState) for the second-most goals in a match in school history.

A program-record three different Bulldogs (senior Kevyn Shelledy, freshman Taylor Turnipseed and junior Katelyn Graben) netted two goals each. Shelledy also netted a pair of assists on the weekend, including one on Danielle Kite's game-winning goal against South Alabama.

The two-goal efforts from Shelledy and Turnipseed moved them into a tie for the team lead with a trio of scores each. Graben's first two goals of the season tied her with rookie Tarah Henderson, who also scored on Sunday, for second on the squad. Shelledy, sophomore Leanna Baldner and senior Anna Goblirsch each sit atop the team's assist lead with a pair each. Baldner and Shelledy assisted on Kite's goal against USA, while Goblirsch connected to both Henderson and Graben.

State's defense earned its second and third shutouts of the season at South Alabama. The three blank sheets match last season's career high for junior goalkeeper Taryn Holland. The Franklin, Tenn., native made seven stops in the two victories, bringing her season total to 32 on the year. Having turned back 82-percent of the shots she has faced this year, Holland has moved into fourth on the program's career saves list with 182.

The Bulldogs will be aiming to even up the series history with the Tigers this weekend. UM took a 6-5-2 edge in the series with last year's victory at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. While Memphis holds a three-match win streak against the Bulldogs, State maintains a 3-2-1 edge on the home turf.

The Tigers, who return nine starters from last year's squad that won C-USA and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, come to Starkville sporting a 3-2-1 record. UM split last weekend's action, claiming a 3-0 win over Oklahoma before dropping a 2-1 decision to nationally-ranked Colorado.

Memphis has scored nine goals on the year, with Vendula Strnadova, Lizzy Simonin and Melissa Smith leading the way with two each. Strnadova has also notched two assists on the campaign, tying her with Victoria Dalton for the team lead. Eli Kuhar-Pitters has seen most of the action in goal for Brooks Monaghan's squad, tallying 15 saves and a shutout.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 2008-09 MississippiState softball team gets its first game action this weekend as it hosts the first of consecutive home fall tournaments Saturday and Sunday at the MSU Softball Field.

Admission to all MState home softball games is free.

The Bulldogs take the field at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, challenging DeltaState and SheltonStateCommunity College, respectively. SheltonState and the Lady Statesmen open Saturday's slate with a 1 p.m. first pitch.

Seventh-year head coach Jay Miller's squad concludes the opening weekend of fall action on Sunday, taking on Marion Military Institute at 1 p.m. before meeting Wallace State-Hanceville at 3 p.m. Marion and WallaceState meet on the diamond at 11 a.m.

State brings back 11 players, including nine starters, from last year's squad that finished 41-22 and advanced to the program's seventh regional appearance.

Junior catcher Chelsea Bramlett returns after anchoring the squad with a .450 batting average a year ago. The Cordova, Tenn., native earned a second straight first team NFCA all-America honor last season after setting a school record for runs scored (52) and matching her single-season stolen base mark (46).

Ali Bainbridge looks to build on an impressive rookie season in which she earned SEC all-Freshman honors after hitting a team third-best .337 with nine doubles, a triple, a home run, 30 RBIs and 36 runs scored.

The Bulldogs' pitching staff returns intact this season, with sophomore Misty Flesher and senior Kelsey Nurnberg leading the way. Flesher won 20 games a year ago, the second most ever by a freshman at MSU, while Nurnberg notched 17 victories.

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