MSU drops second-straight volleyball match

Staff Writer

Day one of “the Darty Party” kicked off with a bang for Mississippi State volleyball’s new leader Julie Darty.

The Bulldogs began the season hosting the Starkvegas Classic at Newell-Grissom Building and knocked off Mississippi Valley State 3-0. They’ve hit a snag in the last two matches, however.

Following a 3-1 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the nightcap on Friday, MSU came back on Saturday afternoon to some more struggles. Georgia State controlled the first two sets to get the early advantage and took a 3-1 victory to drop the Bulldogs to 1-2 in the first weekend.

Darty’s team is still a work in progress. MSU returns just six players from last year’s team and hasn’t had much stability in the program over the last two years. Youth and inexperience is the culprit to some of the early struggles.

“I thought we had a little bit more grit and more fight than we did (Friday),” Darty said of the loss. “There are going to be a lot of growing pains this year. It’s essentially an entire new team. We have some pieces to the puzzle but they’re not all there yet.

“I have to trust that this is going to be a four-year process and a long-term plan. I’m trying to let them know that failing is OK as long as we trust in each other.”

Georgia State came out with the momentum early in the match when it jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the first set. The Bulldogs fought back with a 5-0 run to cut it to a point, but they couldn’t get over that hump and fell behind 1-0 as Georgia State took the first set 21-25.

The second set saw MSU fall into a major hole with a 14-25 decision and the hitting percentage fell to 0.55 with 14 errors after those first two decisions.

With their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs weren’t going down without a fight. They held the lead throughout the third set and overcame a late surge by Georgia State to take a 25-22 win and stay alive in the match.
A relatively tight fourth set ensued as MSU hung tough down 15-20, but the Panthers pulled away taking the set 15-25 and the match 3-1.

“I think we bounced back pretty well,” Bulldog libero Gabby Zgunda said. “I think that’s a positive for the season and it shows that we can improve each game and we can finish."

Georgia State had a heavy advantage at the net finishing with 56 kills to MSU’s 36. A.J. Koele led MSU in those kills with eight while Amarrah Cooks and Taylor Haskins each had seven. Alleah Stamatis finished with a team-leading 18 of MSU’s 33 assists.

“I think everyone in the gym can tell that we lean on Alleah Stamatis," Darty said. "She makes us go. She pushes everyone around her and she’s fired up. Once we all kind of play on the same level that Alleah is playing, things will fall into place.”

Mississippi State finishes out the Starkvegas Classic today at 11 a.m. against Cal Baptist and it's looking to finish opening weekend with a .500 record. The Bulldogs travel to Boone, North Carolina, next Friday for the Appalachian Invitational with Clemson, Davidson and Appalachian State on the docket.