MSU volleyball drops decision at Ole Miss
OXFORD - The all-black look didn't produce a win for Mississippi State's football team in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night.
It was the same for the Bulldog volleyball squad while trying the same uniform color for its road match against the Ole Miss Rebels on Sunday.
MSU opened Southeastern Conference play at the Gillom Center on the Ole Miss campus and lost a 3-1 decision to the rival Rebels.
The Bulldogs, who fell to 8-4 overall with their first SEC loss, dug themselves too big of a hole by losing the first two sets 25-18 and 25-17.
MSU coach Jenny Hazelwood said having a roster with only two seniors plays a part in her team's inconsistent play at times.
"There still may be some uncertainty at times because we're still pretty young out there. We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores on the court, but they are gaining confidence with each match."
After winning the third set 25-23, the Bulldogs rallied from an 18-8 deficit in the fourth to force ties at 24-24 and 25-25, but Ole Miss scored the final two points to capture the frame 27-25 and secure the match.
"I am proud of the way they came out of the locker room (to begin the third set) because in our last two matches, we lost them in three," Hazelwood said. "It could have been easy for them to say, 'here we go again,' but they didn't. They fought and we dug ourselves a pretty big hole in that fourth set so to come back and be in position to win it, that showed a lot of potential that we have.
"We're still working some things out and once we get them figured out, we're going to be really tough."
MSU only hit 14 percent in losing the first two sets and Ole Miss used the slow start by its opponent to make a 6-1 run in the first set to break a 7-7 tie and take control 13-8.
In the second set, the Rebels jumped out to an early 5-3 advantage, but the Bulldogs went on a 5-0 run to take a 10-9 lead. It was short lived as Ole Miss scored the next three points to regain momentum at 12-10 and went on to win the set 25-17.
The third set was a nip and tuck frame as MSU had three-point leads at 7-4 and 9-6. The Rebels had a run of four out of five points to gain a 20-19 advantage, but the Bulldogs managed to keep it close long enough to get two set points. MSU cashed in on the second on an Ashley Newsome kill.
Newsome had 11 kills in the match for the Bulldogs, while Caitlin Rance led the way with 16.
Rance recorded her fifth double-double of the season by adding 10 digs. It was the seventh double-double of her career.
Mandy Mellencamp, who had a season-high nine kills and a career-high six total blocks, was credited for her play by Hazelwood, especially after coming off preseason surgery.
"She's been battling a little bit to get back where she's been so I'm proud to see her come out to do such a great job," Hazelwood said.
With her 12 digs to lead MSU, Kayla Woodard moved into eighth place on the school's all-time digs list, passing her coach (Hazelwood), with 1,110 in her career.
Newsome moved to fifth in Bulldog history in total blocks with 321 and fourth in block assists with 360.
MSU hosts its next two SEC matches, the only home dates in September, with Arkansas coming in at 7 p.m. Friday and LSU being the opponent at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
After having eight-straight matches away from home, Hazelwood said it's going to be a good thing to get back inside the Newell-Grissom Building for competition.
"Our place is a tough place to play so these two opponents coming in this weekend are going to have their hands full," Hazelwood said.