On a sweltering summer weekend fans packed into the Newell-Grissom Building on Friday and Saturday and watched their Mississippi State University volleyball team put on an offensive clinic. The Bulldogs swept Gonzaga University in a two-match series, and bested Southeastern Louisiana University while only dropping one set.
The first set in Friday's game against Gonzaga remained tightly contested until the very end. Headed into crunch time, Gonzaga pulled away with a four-point lead (23-19), the largest lead of the set, until a service error by Gonzaga swung the momentum in the Bulldogs' favor. A service error and a kill by freshman Sania Petties brought MSU within 1. Gonzaga quickly got to set point due to a MSU service error, and with the Bulldogs' backs against the wall, junior Lauren Myrick swatted a needed kill to bring the Dawgs within 1 again. Petties, the Houston, Texas native, got the game-tying kill, knotting the set 24-24. Graduate Margaret Dean served an ace to take the lead 25-24, and was followed up by a clutch kill from Petties to give MSU the first set win. Myrick, the outside hitter from Louisville, Kentucky, said her team thrived off the crowd's energy and it gave them the extra boost to come through in the clutch.
"This is the first time in a while that we've had a full crowd since COVID-19, and they really brought the energy," Myrick said. "It was really exciting to have the fans here watching us and supporting us."
The second set proved to stay competitive as well, with the squads trading blows while fighting for a lead. The set was tied 22-22 when senior Gabby Waden rattled off two consecutive kills off two consecutive assists by Gabby Coulter, the senior from Bradenton, Florida, and the Dawgs reached set point. The set was capped off by an attack error from Gonzaga which gave MSU the second set victory. The third set proved to not run as close as the two previous, and the Dawgs prevailed with a 25-14 win.
Accurate hitting gave the Bulldogs the edge with a .303 percentage for the match, compared to Gonzaga's .221. The tandem of Dean and Coulter dished out 35 assists, with Coulter racking up 20 and Dean with 15. Head Coach Julie Darty Dennis said she was thrilled with her team's hitting percentage, and said both of her setters played exceptionally well.
"I'll take a .303 (hitting percentage) any night," Darty Dennis said. "Both of our setters, Gabby (Coulter) and Margaret (Dean), did a fantastic job. They're both so different, but they bring so much good energy to the table. I don't think Lauren (Myrick) could have the performance she had without the middles working as hard they did."
During the early morning on Saturday the Bulldogs carried the previous day's momentum and obliterated Gonzaga with back-to-back sweeps (25-16, 25-16, 25-22). The Bulldogs boasted a .408 hitting percentage and Myrick led the squad in kills with 12. Coulter and Margaret Dean once again racked up assists with a combined total of 36. Coulter dished out 21, and Dean of Bedford, Texas, got into the mix with 15.
Later that same Saturday, MSU would cap off the StarkVegas Classic with a 3-1 victory over Southeastern Louisiana (25-8, 25-15, 18-25, 25-21). Myrick had another show-out performance, boasting a double-double with 14 kills and 15 digs. Waden led the team in kills for the match with 19, and the duo of Dean and Coulter dished out a combined 52 assists, with 20 and 32 respectively.
The match against Southeastern was not a blowout by any means; the Bulldogs dropped the third set in an 18-25 loss. MSU then rallied back in the next set and ended the tournament without losing a single match. Waden, the graduate from Columbia, South Carolina, said she was happy with the way her team reacted to the adversity brought by dropping a set to Southeastern.
"Our team responded pretty well. I think that they (Southeastern Louisiana) are a great team, they are really scrappy," Waden said. "They are something that we are going to have to get used to, having to transition in and out of points and earn them. I think our team definitely worked for this win, and this gives us room to improve."
The Bulldogs' next match is against McNeese State University in Houston, Texas, on Friday, where they will participate in the Flo Hyman Classic.