Sarah Temperilli (12) of the Bulldogs stretches her arms to defend against a shot by Florida's Tangerine Wiggs. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
It was one of those "David vs. Goliath" type of matchups Sunday afternoon in Southeastern Conference volleyball action between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Florida Gators.
In one corner were the Gators with their No. 12 ranking, undefeated conference record and seven-match winning streak overall.
The young Bulldogs entered the match without a league victory that put them at the bottom of the league standings and were trying to end a five-match losing skid.
Even though MSU had those facts going against it, coach Jenny Hazelwood was hoping for more fight out of her squad that was defeated handily by Florida 3-0 at the Newell Grissom Building.
If the Bulldogs were considered to be "David," they forgot to bring the stone to slay the giant Gators.
Hazelwood was disappointed that MSU didn't respond well to early adversity in the match.
"Coming off such a really good match (against LSU Friday), (Saturday) we had a great practice and had a great pass round this morning, then from the first point when (Florida) got a really good kill, it was like (they took a step back) and some of that old mentality crept back in a little bit," Hazelwood said. "We worked so hard this week to become a different team and it really showed Wednesday and Thursday at practice then Friday in the match. It's just some lessons learned for a young team.
"You are going to play against some of the best teams in the country and I told the girls that there is a reason they are No. 12 right now. They are a good team. We can't let that put us in a place mentally where we don't do some of the little things we set out to do."
The Bulldogs dropped the first set 25-14 and the second set 25-18. They competed a bit better in the third set by taking an early 2-1 lead and tying it at 5-5 before falling 25-18.
During the break between sets two and three, Hazelwood reminded MSU about executing the game plan.
"They weren't executing early on," Hazelwood said. "They refocused more on that and that's why you game plan, so you can take some things away they are wanting to do, really see some different looks for your offense and things they struggle with.
"We did a better job of executing in the third set and were a little more successful. Those are some things we've really fought through lately. It was unfortunate to see us take some steps backward the first two sets, but they rebounded in the third to play a little bit better there."
Freshman Taylor Scott continued to go on the attack for the Bulldogs. Even though it was a little more difficult going against players that were 6-4 and 6-2 across the front line, Scott was still able to get double-digit kills with 10.
"You've got (Florida's) Tangerine (Wiggs) that's such a good blocker and you've got a middle coming in there that's just as big," Hazelwood said. "It's tough and they take away a lot of the court and play really good defense around it. She still got 10 kills against a great defensive blocking team. She's really come into her own the last few matches and she's got to keep doing that."
MSU freshman libero Roxanne McVey followed up her SEC record dig performance of 50 against LSU on Friday with 15 more against the Gators.
McVey's skill was something that got the attention of Florida coach Mary Wise.
"I love their libero," Wise said. "She's just a freshman. When you can get an SEC record early in your career, we know she is going to be somebody to be reckoned with all four years."
The Bulldogs hit the road for their next four league matches beginning with Friday's rematch with Auburn. The Tigers took a 3-0 decision (25-20, 25-16, 25-19) in Starkville back on Sept. 14.
After Auburn, MSU travels to Texas A&M on Sunday.
"We've got two (matches) next weekend against teams that are winning right now, but there's not a team we play that we can't compete with," Hazelwood said.
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