Darty wins first match at MSU volleyball coach

Mississippi State volleyball player Morgan Kath, left, watches the action on Friday with head coach Julie Darty.

Staff Writer

Volleyball teams can become complacent and have a letdown with a two-set lead in a match.

On Friday, the Mississippi State Bulldogs had such an advantage in their opening action of the season against Mississippi Valley State at the Newell-Grissom Building.

The Bulldogs fell behind 8-7 in the third set, but were determined not to let the Delta Devils back into the match and went ahead to put them away 25-13.

MSU defeated Mississippi Valley State 3-0 in coach Julie Darty's debut as head coach.

"I like to see what we are going to do when our backs are to the wall," Darty said about the third-set adversity. "They stayed calm and stayed composed. We had a lot of freshmen out there so it was really cool to see how they were handling the pressure. It's going to be interesting because we have seniors, we have freshmen and everything in between. It's going to be how we come together to get the best results we possibly can."

After the Delta Devils won the first point of the final set, the Bulldogs rallied to go up 6-4.

MSU fell behind 8-7, but came back to win four-straight points to take an 11-8 lead.

The Bulldogs remained out front for the rest of the set and took the match.

Junior Amarrah Cooks, who had the kill to put MSU on top 9-8, was happy to provide a spark for the team.

"We felt the whole momentum swing," Cooks said. "It wasn't about me getting the kill, but seeing my teammates react to it and bringing it to the next play."

The Bulldogs were a little sluggish in the first set, but still managed to earn a 25-19 decision, then went on to capture the second set by the same score as the third 25-13.

Darty said she was not totally surprised that MSU had some jitters with it being the first match of the season at home and several newcomers in action, but liked the way the players overcame and played through some early mistakes.

Count Cooks as one of the Bulldogs that was a bit shaken at the start of play.

"As soon as he blew the first whistle, I was immediately nervous," Cooks said. "I had a lot of nerves and I started making a lot of errors, but I had to rely on my teammates and play off each other and got better each set."
Cooks and Taylor Hoskins had seven kills each, but AJ Koele led MSU with eight kills. Gabby Zgunda had 19 digs, while Alleah Stamatis contributed 19 assists.

Former Starkville High School player Khristian Carr chipped in five kills and one dig.

"I thought we responded really well," Darty said. "When we got our offense going, I thought our defense also picked up. I'm excited to see what this team does match by match all year as a whole and as they soak up every experience they have, I think they are going to get better."

Louisiana 3, MSU 1

The Bulldogs could not continue the momentum into the nightcap as they dropped a decision.

Louisiana won the first two sets 25-19 and 25-23, then MSU took the third 25-21. The visitors wrapped up the win with a 25-22 result in the fourth set.

Paige Shaw had 13 kills to lead the Bulldogs and Zgunda collected 23 digs.

The Bulldogs (1-1) continue play in the Starkvegas Classic Saturday with a 4:30 p.m. encounter against Georgia State, then against Cal Baptist at 11 a.m. Sunday.