The Mississippi State University Volleyball (6-0) team traveled three hours to Hattiesburg this weekend to take part in the Southern Miss Classic against the University of New Orleans, University of Southern Mississippi and Arkansas State University.
This weekend was circled on the calendar by head coach Julie Darty in the pre-season, and it took three tough matches, including a five-setter, for the Bulldogs to walk away as the champions.
Coach Darty said she was very proud of the fight the girls showed, especially on the second day where they faced Arkansas State (4-2) and Southern Miss (0-6).
“It was another impressive effort by the Bulldogs,” Darty said. “The Southern Miss match was one that was almost harder to prepare for after coming off a huge Arkansas State win this morning. I'm really proud of what we did this weekend at the Southern Miss Classic.”
Having a year of SEC play under their belt, many of the returning starters played really well throughout the tournament, three of which made the all-tournament team. Senior Alleah Stamatis led the team from the setters position with 113 assists this weekend.
According to Darty, Stamatis has made a positive impact on the floor as a leader and her overall performance has been impressive.
“The leadership that Alleah is providing to this young team is crazy,” Darty said. “She's allowing people to feel comfortable and confident to do things that they might not be so sure of. She really is just that anchor on the floor for us right now."
The Bulldogs’ two middles, Amarrah Cooks, a senior from Columbia, South Carolina and Gabby Waden, a sophomore from Columbia, South Carolina, also walked away with all-tournament honors, accruing 68 kills and 20 blocks.
Those two hitters along with Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Callie Minshew, a freshman from Brandon, and Deja Robinson, a sophomore from Canton, Georgia, impressed Darty with their play.
“It was another big weekend for Gabby Waden and Callie Minshew,” Darty said. “I think our pins did a really good job, and it was really nice to see Amarrah Cooks and Deja Robinson come alive in the middle."
Darty said Makenzie Jordan, a freshman from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, made a smooth transition from outside hitter to the libero position this weekend.
“It was a big weekend for Makenzie Jordan to step in and put the libero jersey on," Darty said. "She did a good job in left back for us, and I'm excited to see her continue to grow into the player that she's going to be for this program.”
This has been the best start to a season for the Bulldogs since 2010. With such good all-around play in this tournament, they look forward to keeping the momentum going with two more tournaments before the start of SEC play. They will play in the Gamecock Classic in Jacksonville, Alabama next weekend before heading back to Starkville for their final, non-conference tournament.