ATHENS, Ga. - First-year coach Houston Franks was eager to see how his young team would respond in Mississippi State's cross country opener on Saturday at the Georgia Invitational.
Based on the Bulldogs' stellar results, he was quite pleased with how the year got underway, especially considering the level of competition the field featured.
Host Georgia claimed top honors in both the men's and women's events, but finishing a close second in each run was MSU.
"I'm just really happy with how both teams ran," Franks said. "We were at a competitive meet, and both teams really impressed me."
Georgia men won with 24 points, while Mississippi State was second with 37, followed by Georgia Tech at third with 70 points. For the women, it was Georgia again taking first with 27 points, Mississippi State second with 54 and Tulane third with 77 points.
Brett Richardson of UGA won the men's individual with a time of 24:33.18, while MSU freshman Nick Perkins was a close second at 24:40.97. Freshman Mike Clark finished fourth with a time of (24:44.75). Senior Adam Lenz (24:54.99) and Sophomore Phillip Johnson (24:56.98) rounded out the Top 10 with eighth- and 10th-place finishes, respectively.
"With the men, I was really excited coming in. We have a lot of raw potential, and I was ready to see how we could compete," Franks said. "We have an attitude that we want to be on top, and after today I would say we are headed in the right direction."
While Kristie Krueger of Georgia was the women's top finisher at 16:55.62, Mississippi State's Renee Masterson was the Lady Bulldogs' top runner with her fifth-place run of 18:14.72. Also finishing in the Top 10 was sophomore Haley Greenwell, at No. 7 with a time of 18:21.86.
"I'm very happy with Renee," Franks said. "Haley ran great, and Loren Bruce had a great race. Chloe(Phillips) ran good. She wasn't feeling well before the meet, but she still posted an impressive time. I'm very happy with where the women finished and where they are headed. After today, I would say we are a little ahead of where I had expected. Which is a good thing and a good problem to have."
The Bulldogs have a week off before they welcome teams to Starkville for the Bulldog Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 18.
ARLINGTON, Texas - Caitlin Rance and Ashley Newsome combined for 37 kills and eight blocks Saturday night leading Mississippi State (7-0) to a 3-1 (18-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-17) win over tourney host Texas Arlington (3-4) in the title match of the UTA Maverick Invitational. Earlier in the day the Bulldogs registered a straight-sets win (25-21, 25-12, 25-16) over Louisiana Tech (3-4).
It's the best start for the Volleyball bulldogs since the 2005 MSU team opened with nine consecutive wins.
"We saw a great team effort this weekend, especially in tonight's final match against a solid Texas Arlington team," said second-year Bulldog head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "This team is learning how to find a way to win. Right now we're battling through some adversity - first losing Faith (Steinwedell) and now with several other minor injuries on the team. But we're learning how to fight and to deal with those adversities."
Junior outside hitter Caitlin Rance and senior libero Kayla Woodard represented Mississippi State on the all-tournament team. Rance piled up 47 kills (4.70 k/s) and five blocks while Woodard delivered 62 digs in three matches.
Rance set a career-high with 25 kills and hit .379 in the tournament finale while senior Ashley Newsome had a season-best 22 kills with six blocks on a .357 hitting night. "They were amazing, and a freshman, Iwa Belisario, did an incredible job of helping our hitters know where to attack," added Hazelwood.
The Mavericks broke away from a 12-12 deadlock in cruising to a 25-18 winin the opening set. Tara Frantz, who led UTA with 11 kills, and Edl-hah Kaswatuka, who piled up 10 kills on the night, ignited the run for Texas Arlington.
But the Bulldogs warmed up on offense with .341 hitting in the second stanza led throughout much of the remainder of the match. Freshman Dani McCree and junior Kellye Jordan had seven kills each. State placed four defenders in double figures in digs. Kayla Woodard had a match-high 21, Iwa Belisario added a season-best 19, Paris Perret had 14 and Kellye Jordan 12.
State started slowly but finished with a flurry in registering the win over Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs extended their season-opening win streak to six matches, longest since the Volleyball Bulldogs opened the 2005 campaign with a run of nine consecutive wins. State faces tournament host Texas Arlington for the title in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. tourney finale.
Junior outside Caitlin Rance registered her third double-double of the young season, sharing match kills honors (11) with senior teammate Ashley Newsome while tallying 10 digs.
Helped along by four early State attack errors, Louisiana Tech raced to a 5-1 edge in the opening set and held a 20-18 advantage deep into the stanza. But MSU got a pair of kills each from Rance and Mandy Mellencamp to close with a 7-1 spree, capped by a set-winning service ace by SEC Freshman Player of the Week Paris Perret. Newsome tallied seven of her 11 kills in the opening set.
MSU's Bulldogs trailed only briefly in the early going of the second set. But the Bulldog offense got on a roll, reeling off 10 straight points as State rode a match-best .292 attack percentage to a 25-12 win.
Seven different Bulldogs registered kills in the third set as State pulled away from a 5-5 deadlock to close out the match with a convincing 25-16 win.
The Bulldogs amassed a 39-24 advantage in kills and a 62-54 edge in digs, with Kayla Woodard leading the way with a match-high 23. Kellye Jordan, making her first start of the season, registered a career-high 14 digs to back her 3-kill, 3-block performance. Newsome paced MSU at the net with five total blocks, including her 57th career solo block that moved her to sixth place on State's all-time career list.
Sophomore defensive specialist Kelsey Nichols made her season debut in the match, becoming the 11th Bulldog player to hit the court in game competition this fall.
State concludes its early-season fall tournament schedule next weekend competing in the SIU Saluki Invitational Sept. 10-11 in Carbondale, Ill.