Enjoy this recap of fall Mississippi State University sports updates:
Volleyball: signings, sliders and the SEC streak
Head coach Julie Darty Dennis and the Bulldogs volleyball team penned two new 2022 commitments last week, Sophie Agee from Houston, Texas, and Sanaa Williams from Hermitage, Tennessee. Agee is an outside hitter that led St. Agnes Academy to a Texas Class 6A state title. She was also named the MVP of the 17 division at the 2021 USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship. Agee also earned recognition as a 2021 Girls’ High School All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Williams is a talented middle blocker that led Hume-Fogg Academic High School to a Tennessee Class AA state title. Williams was named MVP of the state championship game after tallying 17 kills, 13 digs and three blocks in the finals.
MSU tried every trick in the book to pack the Newell-Grissom Building as the Bulldogs played host to the No. 24 Tennessee Volunteers this weekend. Promotions included free admission both days, free coolers and sliders to the first groups of fans to arrive on Saturday and free sundaes to the first fans to arrive for Sunday’s match. The MSU volleyball team sought to continue a school-record eight-game Southeastern Conference winning streak.
The Saturday sets were all tight, with Tennessee reaching a 23-21 lead late in the first set. MSU responded with four straight points to win the set, with senior Gabby Waden completing the kill on set point. In the second set, the Bulldogs took an early 6-3 lead, but the Vols narrowed the gap and teams battled back and forth through a 15-15 tie score. Tennessee built a four-point lead at 21-17 and MSU couldn't cut the deficit any less than two points the rest of the set, losing 22-25.
The Vols took an early 8-5 lead in the third set, but the Bulldogs fought to tie the score at 9-9. The two teams traded scoring blows and were knotted at 16-16 when MSU began to pull ahead, reaching a 23-18 advantage. The Vols showed heart in claiming four quick points to trim the Bulldogs’ advantage. Waden would once again perform the final kill, clinching the third set 25-23.
In the fourth and deciding set, MSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead that the Bulldogs would never relinquish. Tennessee kept the set close, never falling more than four points behind MSU, but the Bulldogs would not be denied the set and match. Junior Lauren Myrick notched kills on both the first point and deciding point of set four as MSU prevailed in the match 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-23). Two Bulldogs reached double-doubles: Myrick notched 19 kills and 16 digs, while sophomore Shania Cromartie totaled 13 kills and 13 digs for the match.
The Bulldogs (21-5, 12-2 SEC) claimed their ninth consecutive SEC victory and tied their second most total wins in a season by beating Tennessee (17-7, 9-5 SEC) in Saturday’s match. This win was also notable for being the first Bulldogs volleyball victory at home over a ranked opponent since the 2011 season.
On Sunday, 622 fans showed up at The Griss and MSU showed out early. The Bulldogs dominated the first set from the midway point on. Up 12-11, MSU posted four straight points to take momentum, and the Vols could close no closer than a four-point margin the rest of the set. The Bulldogs closed strong, taking the first set 25-18. In the second set, the Vols built an early 8-3 lead, but the Bulldogs clawed back to a 9-9 tie. MSU ran off five consecutive points to snatch the lead, but Tennessee would again close to within one point as MSU led 18-17 and later 23-22. A kill by senior Deja Robinson sealed the set win for the Bulldogs, who were now up 2-0 in sets and poised to clinch the match.
The third set was a nip-and-tuck affair, with 23 ties and nine lead changes. The Vols would eventually win the set 28-26 to continue the match. The fourth set was tied at 5-5 when Tennessee seized momentum with five consecutive points. The Bulldogs had no answer for the Vols’ attack in the set, falling 25-15.
In the decisive set five, the Bulldogs and Vols traded 15 ties and nine lead changes. Graduate student Jessica Kemp scored the clinching kill as MSU won 3-2 (25-18, 25-23, 26-28, 15-25, 17-15). Waden (15 kills) reached double-digit kills for the sixth straight match, while Myrick tallied 13 kills as well.
MSU also served 10 aces, while Tennessee served none. Sophomore Lilly Gunter earned SEC defensive player of the Week for her performance against the ranked Vols. Gunter posted a team-high 37 digs in the two matches, converting 48 of 50 reception attempts.
The Bulldogs’ (22-5, 13-2 SEC) Sunday win over Tennessee (17-8, 9-6 SEC) puts the team just one win shy of tying the program record for wins in a season, which is held by the 1976 MSU squad. The 10th consecutive SEC victory has also claimed the notice of the AVCA Top 25. In this week’s poll, the Bulldogs are the first team outside the Top 25 MSU’s weekend sweep knocked the Vols out of the Nov. 16 rankings.
Next up: MSU volleyball travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to face the Arkansas Razorbacks at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday and 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Hardwood and Hoops
To follow the winning ways of the MSU men’s basketball team, see Mississippi State men’s basketball routs Montana 86-49.
To follow the winning ways of the MSU women’s basketball team, see Mississippi State women’s basketball starts 3-0.
Final note: Congrats to Mike Leach and the entire Bulldogs football team on their hard-fought comeback for the ages against Auburn on the Plains on Saturday. This was truly a great week to be a Bulldog fan!
Hope you enjoyed catching up on these other fall sports. Hail State!