Mississippi State University Volleyball is in last place for the third straight year in the SEC preseason coaches’ polls. However, head coach Julie Darty wants to continue to grow and build the program from the ground up.
Darty’s rebuilding plan starts at the high school level, as the game continues to develop and grow in the state with the help of team camps. The next step is recruiting. Once the game grows in the state of Mississippi, Darty said she hopes to sign players from Birmingham, Alabama and Mississippi to improve the program.
“You want to keep those Mississippi kids in school and in this state,” Darty said. “We will probably see more of those in-state kids on our roster in the future just because the game is getting better and it’s continuing to grow.”
A new season offers opportunities for the team to prove how far they have come from the previous season. Darty said the team has more experience and should trust the system.
“I think if we’re consistent in a lineup and we can get into a good rhythm and kind of develop that trust, I think we will have a lot more success,” Darty said.
All-freshman team selection Deja Robinson, a sophomore middle blocker from Canton, Georgia, will have a target on her back and Darty said she is looking forward to how she handles that pressure.
“I think that pressure is a little bit of a privilege for Deja,” Darty said. “Which, she is going to have to figure out different ways to still be a go-to for us and still be the player that we know she can be.”
Veteran player Alleah Stamatis, a senior setter from Lexington, Kentucky, who transferred to MSU from Jacksonville State University, said the team has been putting a lot of focus on limiting errors.
“I think we have been putting a lot of emphasis on our first contact,” Stamatis said. “Making sure we can be in system as much as possible, and being able, for me, to run my offense as even, in balance, as possible.”
Paige Shaw, a sophomore outside hitter from Hoover, Alabama, said being comfortable with being out of system when they find themselves out of the natural cadence of pass-set-hit could help the team this season.
“I think getting comfortable with being out of system too,” Shaw said. “This is a really tough league, and so we were out of system a lot (last season). So, just being comfortable with being out of system.”
To prepare for the difficulty of SEC play, Darty is looking forward to the Southern Miss Volleyball Classic in Hattiesburg, as the Bulldogs will play the University of New Orleans, Arkansas State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.
The lineup of opponents from the region will be a test against quality opponents for the Bulldogs. As Darty said, it will also be a sign of how the season will go for the team.
“I think that second weekend tournament down at Southern Miss is going to be a really good test,” Darty said. “We are not going super far during non-conference. We’re staying pretty regional, and there is a lot of really good volleyball just around us and Southern Miss is a great program.”