News from MSU Media Relations--April 2

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Volleyball, Track & Field and Softball.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University head volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood has announced the hiring of Branden Higa as an assistant coach with the Volleyball Bulldogs. The hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning.

Higa is a native of Lancaster, Calif., and brings to Mississippi State a solid background in volleyball as both a coach and player. He served as head volleyball coach in 2008 at West Los Angeles and previously served as an assistant volleyball coach in 2006 and 2007 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and in 2005 at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

"I am pleased to have Branden join our volleyball staff at Mississippi State," said Hazelwood. "He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to the program and complements our staff very well. In addition, he has extensive knowledge of the beach volleyball game, and that is a huge asset as the SEC looks to be a leader in helping elevate sand volleyball to NCAA sponsored sport status.

"Branden also has many recruiting ties in the talent-rich West Coast area, which will aid greatly in our efforts to add high-caliber athletes from that region to our program."

Higa played collegiately for three seasons at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., where he earned a double major in international studies and public relations in 1998. Prior to playing for the Wave, he was honored as the 1994 California Junior College Player of the Year during a two-year career at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.

The new Bulldog assistant also gained expertise as a head coach in the highly-competitive California club volleyball ranks, guiding the South Bay Volleyball Club in Torrance, the Santa Monica Beach Club in Sherman Oaks and the Santa Clarita Athletic Club. He has also served as a coach and instructor at numerous camps and clinics across the nation and last year served as an assistant coach with USA Beach Volleyball in Los Angeles.

Track & Field
AUSTIN, Texas - Mississippi State distance runners ended their first day in Austin, Texas with a first place finish from junior Daniel Simpkins. Simpkins ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9 minutes 23.77 seconds to claim the section B crown.

"Daniel had a great race," head coach Al Schmidt said. "He battled a 20 mph wind the whole race and came away with the win for the second year in a row."

Sophomore Simone Domingue ran a personal-best, 4:46.90, in the section B 1500-meter run to claim fifth place in the event.

"Simone ran really well in the conditions she was given," Schmidt said. "She set a PR which is always good."

The Bulldogs will continue their stay in Texas with senior Delandus O'Neal competing in the 400-meter hurdles tomorrow at 5 p.m.

MADISON, Miss. - Mississippi State could not maintain an early three-run lead, falling to in-state rival Ole Miss 8-3 in the 7th annual M&F Bank Fastpitch Softball Classic.

A crowd of 1,137 watched the annual non-conference game between the in-state rivals played at Liberty Park. Ole Miss has now won four of the past five meetings in this annual get-together.

The Bulldogs (17-17) grabbed a 3-0 lead by scoring three times in the second inning. Ali Bainbridge, who continued her recent hot streak with a 2-for-3 outing, began the inning with a base hit. Jessie Bailey reached on a fielder's choice, and Jessie Spain followed with a sacrifice bunt. Courtney Moore followed with a two-run double to left field that scored Bainbridge and Bailey to put the Bulldogs up 2-0. A groundout by Brittany Gates scored Moore for the last run of the inning.

"We jumped out to a really good start, but we've had trouble holding leads all season. We never adjusted when they put (Becky) Nye in the game," MState head coach Jay Miller said. "We didn't play well in all three phases of the game, and that makes it tough to win games."

The Rebels (16-18) ralled with two runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and then four additional scores in the sixth inning.

Lauren Grill, who collected three hits in four at-bats in the contest, homered to begin the Ole Miss scoring. After a hit batsman and infield error, Alyssa McGovern brought home another run with a sacrifce fly. In the fifth inning, Grill hit her eighth home run of the season and second round-tripper of the game. The two-run blast gave the Rebels the lead for good at 4-3.

An inning later, after two straight outs, the Rebels reeled off six straight hits to put the contest out of reach. Courtnie Ghinaudo had a two-run triple, while Corrine Doornberg and Lisa Conchos had RBI-singles in the at-bat.

For MSU, starting pitcher Kelsey Nurnberg worked four innings, allowing three hits and two runs (one earned), with one strikout and a pair of walks. Lindsey Dunlap (9-10) finished the contest and took the loss. Dunlap was touched for eight hits in two innings of work, while allowing six runs (all earned).

Becky Nye (11-11) picked up the win, working five innings in relief of starter Kelly Chanlder. Nye allowed only one hit and struck out five batters in her five innings of work.

State returns to Southeastern Conference play this weekend, traveling to Gainesville, Fla., for a three-game set with the top-ranked Florida Gators. The series gets underway with a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. CDT on Saturday. Sunday's series finale is also set for a 12 p.m. first pitch.

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