New Head Volleyball Coach Jenny Hazelwood

New Mississippi State head volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood, a former volleyball player at Mississippi State, talked to several members of the media during halftime of the Mississippi State/Tennessee women's basketball game.

Talk about the excitement of coming back to the school where you played volleyball in college.
Jenny Hazelwood - "It is very exciting. Starkville has always had a special place in our hearts. We loved our time as student-athletes at Mississippi State. So, to have the opportunity to come back and give back to this institution and this community is an honor. (Former MSU football player) Brian (Hazelwood) and I both are thrilled because he also loved his years here, too.

"I'm ready to hit the ground running. I haven't stopped since I've been hired. And I don't imagine that is going to slow down anytime soon because we want to accomplish a lot with the program."

Was it a no-brainer to be interested in a Southeastern Conference program?
"It was pretty simply. There are a lot of people here that were here when I was a student-athlete. That has a special meaning to me. Joe Dier was our sports information director. Mary McLendon, who is with our women's basketball team, was our athletic trainer. I still keep in touch with them to this day. Just to be able to work with them is a unique aspect of it, too.

"And with the new people in the athletic department I think there is a great focus among everybody to really build all of our programs. And that was very important to me. Our goal in the athletic department is to compete at the top (level) of the SEC in all of our sports. That was very attractive to me."

Since you have been gone from here have you ever just day dreamed about coming back here as a coach?
"Definitely. This past year was my ninth year as a head coach. I always felt there was probably a good chance that one day I would come back to my alma mater. All those years have led up to this point. And it's neat to finally be in a position to do that.

"Now, there will be some different challenges than I have had over the past nine years. I am very aware of where the program is now because I have followed it. When you are in coaching you know what other programs are doing, but specially your alma mater."

Was your husband Brian with you when you were told that you were the new Mississippi State head volleyball coach?
"He was not with me. I was in my office. My assistant, Lindi Bankowski, who is actually going to be joining me here, called him for me on her phone because I was still on the phone."

How big of a challenge do you feel this program will be?
"I think one of the issues with the program is the team is really, really young. I think there were nine freshmen on the roster. You look at any program in the country that has that many freshmen and they are going to struggle a little bit. The speed of the game is obviously different at the college level.

"We've just got to continue to work hard in the gym and build on their experiences. A lot of those young players got to play, so that's a start.

"I'm looking forward to building with what we already have in place because I think there is a lot of promise and a lot of potential. We just have to fill in a few areas here and there."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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