By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State will begin Southeastern Conference play with a tough challenge today against Florida.
The No. 7 Gators will come into to Starkville trying to avenge their second loss of the season, which came at the hands of Stanford on Saturday. While the Gators were getting beat last weekend, the Bulldogs were sweeping the MCM Elegante' Invitational in Beaumont, Texas, so MSU has momentum going into tonight's match.
"Even though our girls are confident and have a lot of momentum going into SEC play we know that we now have to work much harder because they are playing a great team," said Hazelwood. "We have to be efficient in what we do so we've been training really hard this week."
During this hard week of training, Hazelwood isn't letting her players take their foot off the gas because of the weekend sweep.
"Coming off of a strong weekend where we did a lot of things well is good, but I'm telling them that we have got to get better everyday," said Hazelwood. "Because, when you're playing the No. 7 team in the country there's no room to let up."
One Gator the Bulldogs will have to focus on is senior Kelly Murphy, who was SEC Player of the Year in 2010 and was an All-American.
"We know she is going to be a key for them, so we have to try and minimize what she does," said Hazelwood.
The Gators are not the only team in tonight's battle that has gotten national recognition. MSU's Caitlin Rance was named as one of the top performers by Collegiate Volleyball Update (CVU.com) for her 66 kills and 25 digs last weekend and Rance's performance is no surprise to her coach
"She is the hardest worker everyday in our gym," said Hazelwood. "I'm just glad that her hard work is paying off."
Hazelwood isn't surprised by Rance but is impressed with the numbers she's putting up.
"People know she's our go to and she's still putting up amazing numbers," said Hazelwood. "I'm impressed with what she's done so far this year."
Rance and the Bulldogs will try to upset the Gators, but Hazelwood knows they will have their hands full.
"We are going to have our work cut out for us," said Hazelwood. "All around they are solid, but we are going to be prepared."
MSU will have a quick turnaround after tonight's game as they host another SEC opponent on Sunday in South Carolina.
"Whether we win or loss Friday, we will then have to shift gears and prepare for South Carolina's style of play," said Hazelwood.
The quick turnaround will be tough on the Bulldogs, but Hazelwood thinks it will be easier in some aspects even though the style of play for both team differ..
"The teams are so different, but a lot of the things game plan wise we're going to do against Florida, are going to be effective in a lot of ways against South Carolina," said Hazelwood. "Even as different as they are, the turnaround won't be drastically different from our game plan so that will make it a little bit easier for us to prepare for Sunday."
Tonight's match will begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday's game will be at 1:30 p.m. Both matches will be in the Newell-Grissom Building, where MSU set an attendance record of 3,024 earlier this season.