October's cool and crisp afternoon air blanketed Mississippi State University's Newell-Grissom Building on Friday, where the Bulldogs (11-4, 2-1 SEC) battled for a 3-0 sweep over LSU in its SEC home opener.
LSU opened the first set by taking an early 5-10 lead, and the Bulldogs would battle the Tigers all the way until they tied the set at 19-19. Back-to-back LSU attack errors gave MSU the lead and the squad didn't look back. Senior Deja Robinson got a kill to bring the Bulldog's score to 23-19, and back-to-back LSU attack errors sealed the first set win for MSU 25-19. Efficient hitting gave MSU the edge in the set, with the Bulldogs boasting a .275 hitting percentage.
The second set started off similarly to the first one with LSU getting to an early 0-4 lead, helped by four straight Bulldog attack errors. Robinson, the Canton, Georgia, native, got MSU on the board with a kill, and from there the squad would begin the uphill climb to even the set. Attack errors and kills went MSU's way and the squad knotted the set 12-12. A kill by Lauren Myrick, the junior from Louisville, Kentucky, followed up by two LSU attack errors gave MSU some cushion with the lead and the Bulldogs started to pull ahead. LSU and MSU began to trade blows, but the Bulldogs kept the scoring gap in their favor. Robinson got the set winning kill for MSU, giving them the set win 25-21 off a .176 hitting percentage.
The third set came down to the wire as LSU and MSU battled back and forth trying to gain the advantage. MSU scrounged together a four-point lead (12-8) before a kill and three MSU attack errors evened the score 12-12. From here, both squads matched score for score with neither team taking more than a two-point lead for the rest of the match. With the score tied at 21-21 LSU took the advantage with back-to-back kills, only for MSU's Gabby Waden, the senior from Columbia, South Carolina, to fire back herself with three straight kills in crunch time to once again tie the score at 24-24. With all 637 fans in attendance standing on their feet and screaming, the Bulldogs thrived in the surge of energy and answered LSU every time they scored. Both teams refused to go down and once again knotted the set at 27-27, and Sania Petties, the freshman from Houston, Texas, gave MSU a one point lead off a kill. LSU would respond with an attack error, giving the Bulldogs the hard-fought set win (29-27) and 3-0 match victory. Head coach Julie Darty Dennis said she was thrilled with Waden's performance, and said she had an ALL-SEC performance.
"Gabby (Waden) was ALL-SEC tonight, that's for sure," head coach Darty said. "For her to hit .433 (hitting percentage) against the block that she had to go against and how physical LSU is, just speaks to the work that she's put in. She's working so hard on her transition game, and we saw a lot of great swings in transition from her. I'm very proud of her for having a match like that, and I think she was waiting for that kind of match to happen this season."
After winning 3-0 over LSU on Friday, the Bulldogs came out fighting on Saturday afternoon and took this match 3-2.
Although the night ended in a maroon and white celebration, it didn't come easy. LSU took the first set 25-18, calling for a Bulldog comeback.
"... I did not think that we came out playing as clean or efficient as I wanted us to play," Darty Dennis shared post-game. "So I thought we did make a lot of good adjustments, and I thought Lauren (Myrick) was starting to figure stuff out late in clutch moments. I was just so impressed with our kids for supporting one another through the ins and outs."
The second set went much better for the Dawgs. They were able to take that set as a 25-22 win and move forward into the third. In the third set, another close match occurred, with the Tigers finishing on top, 25-19.
If the Dawgs wanted to win this game, they would have to push through in the fourth set and take the Tigers into a five set match. With a four-point win, 25-21, Mississippi State University's volleyball team was able to inch closer to a comeback win.
The score was tied 2-2 going into the last set, and judging by the nerves throughout the stands, it was anyone's game. It was a fight to 15, and the Dawgs came out on top of this fight, taking the fifth set 15-12.
Lilly Gunter, a sophomore defensive specialist from Oviedo, Florida, stepped off the court with 25 digs in her pocket and was proud of her team's efforts.
"It was all-out effort," Gunter said. "We wanted it really bad."
This tallies up to 33 season digs for the defensive specialist so far this season. With a season total of 20 last year, she's already beating her record with just this game. She now sits with 53 career digs for MSU volleyball.
"She was like that again, and she's done an incredible job at making end-game adjustments and just adapting to the situation," Darty Dennis said about Gunter.
A second night of winning against LSU had Bulldog fans and players alike excited as the Dawgs took the Tigers 3-2, a 2-0 win for the weekend, defending their home court.
The women of MSU's volleyball team will be traveling to Lexington, Kentucky, for the next game on Wednesday to face the University of Kentucky.