After leaving her mark on the Mississippi State volleyball record book during a sterling four-year career as a player, Jenny (Head) Hazelwood is well underway with MSU record book revisions in her sixth season as MSU’s head volleyball coach.
Hazelwood starred as a setter on the volleyball courts at MSU’s Humphrey Coliseum and the Newell-Grissom Building from 1996 to 1999 and rejoined the Mississippi State family in January 2009 as the 10th volleyball head coach in the 39-year history of the Bulldog program. Seasoned with nine years as a head volleyball coach on the collegiate level, the Pearland, Texas, native returned to her alma mater following a successful two-year stint as head coach at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.
In her six seasons, Hazelwood has slowly helped the Bulldogs progress despite an array of injuries that have set the Bulldogs back. Despite a 9-22 posting in her first season at the helm, Hazelwood upped the Bulldogs’ win total for the next two campaigns, making strides across the court for the program. Most recently in 2013, MSU posted 12 victories, including the program’s first ever consecutive sweeps of SEC opponents with home wins against South Carolina and Tennessee. Hazelwood’s Bulldogs capped the season with an impressive 3-1 victory in Knoxville, Tenn., defeating the Volunteers on away soil for the first time since 1995. 2013 brought State one of its best home seasons in school history, with the eight home victories being the second-most all-time. MSU’s nine nonconference wins also noted as the most since Hazelwood’s 2011 squad downed 11.
Along the way Hazelwood-coached Bulldog players have earned conference and national honors for their success on the court and in the classroom. State’s 2009 unit earned AVCA Academic All-America team honors, the fourth such honor for the MSU program, and matched a school record with nine SEC Academic Honor Roll selections. Libero Kayla Woodard in 2010 became the third player at Mississippi State to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America team honors. Also in 2010, Ashley Newsome became MSU’s first All-SEC honoree in 10 seasons and a year later Caitlin Rance joined that growing list of All-SEC performers at Mississippi State. 2013 saw State earn its first ever AVCA All-American selections, while also posting one All-SEC honor and four on the All-SEC Academic list.
Hazelwood has also overseen dramatic improvements to the Bulldogs’ home court in six seasons. The addition of new sound and lighting systems and a new scoreboard, an upgrade of locker room and team areas and the installation of colorful banners to both the interior and exterior areas of the facility are among the latest enhancements at the Newell-Grissom Building.
Fan support for Bulldog volleyball has mirrored State’s steady climb under Hazelwood’s guidance. The top five and all but one of the top 10 attendance marks at the Newell-Grissom Building have come during Hazelwood’s term as head coach. State eclipsed the 1,000-mark twice in 2011, including a facility-record 3,024 for the Bulldogs’ season-opener. Later in the same season in a match played in Humphrey Coliseum State established a state collegiate volleyball attendance mark when 4,525 fans cheered the Bulldogs on to a program-first win over a nationally-ranked opponent, 25th-ranked Kentucky. In the most recent season, attendance it the 1,000+ mark twice, including when 1,633 packed State’s home venue in an ESPNU broadcast against Ole Miss. The season total of 7,199 in attendance at Newell-Grissom marked a new single-season record for the facility.
Hazelwood has been on a fast track in the pursuit of her goal to coach volleyball on the collegiate level.
Upon graduation from Mississippi State in the spring of 2000, she stayed in the Magnolia State to launch her coaching career, serving for two seasons as head volleyball coach at NCAA Division III member Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. While directing the Choctaws’ program, she was responsible for recruiting players that garnered American Southwest Conference East Division Freshman of the Year honors in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
She continued her coaching career in 2002 at Centenary College in Shreveport, La. During five seasons at Centenary her teams took on the likes of Virginia and Southeastern Conference foes Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee and though often-times out-matched, managed to register a 48-138 worksheet. She guided her initial Centenary team, one with two players from a three-win club the previous season, to a 13-win campaign. That feat earned her Independent Coach of the Year national honors in 2002. Two players from her 2006 team earned Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League) All-Freshman team honors, the first all-conference honors ever accorded to a Centenary volleyball player.
Hazelwood accepted the head coaching post at Austin Peay State University in 2007, guiding a team that returned just six letter-winners and three starters to an 8-25 finish in her first season coaching the Lady Govs. Her second APSU edition drew national attention when it produced a 14-win improvement and rated as college volleyball’s most dramatic turnaround that fall. That Lady Gov team, picked to finish ninth in the 10-team Ohio Valley Conference, compiled a 22-11 worksheet and surprised league foes with a third-place finish and a win out of first place.
One of Hazelwood’s prized recruits, junior outside hitter Stephanie Champine, accorded first-team All-OVC and OVC All-Newcomer team honors and became the first Austin Peay player to receive American Volleyball Coaches Association’s All-Midwest Region team honors.
Additionally, her 2008 team was selected by the league’s coaches and players for the Ohio Valley Conference Sportsmanship Award.
Hazelwood set the stage for her career in coaching with a remarkable four-year playing career at Mississippi State University.
She stepped in as a freshman and claimed the role as State’s starting setter, establishing the school single-season mark as a rookie in 1996 with 1,541 assists. It was a tough act to follow, but she managed to register three of MSU’s top four best assist totals, concluding her career with a school-record 5,505 career assists, then the fourth-most in SEC history. She claimed the single-match assist mark in the opening competition of her senior campaign in 1999 when she dished out a school-best 83 assists in a five-set win at UNC-Charlotte.
In addition to quarterbacking the Volleyball Bulldog offense, Hazelwood also starred on defense during her MSU career with 1,107 digs and at the net with 211 total blocks. At Mississippi State Hazelwood played for head coaches Samye Johnson (1996) and Brenda Bowlin (1997-99). And during her career, MSU volleyball moved into its current home, the Newell-Grissom Building (1997), set a school record for conference wins (1998) and established the home single-match attendance record (1999).
Hazelwood’s success was not limited to the volleyball court. She excelled in the classroom, becoming the first Bulldog volleyball player to earn SEC Academic Honor Roll honors all four of her collegiate years. Additionally, she was honored as the recipient of MSU’s Newsom Award for athletic and academic excellence.
MSU volleyball’s tradition of academic success has continued in Hazelwood’s first three seasons at State, where MSU players have earned a combined 36 berths on the SEC Academic Honor Roll and SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll.
Hazelwood is married to Clinton, Miss., native Brian Hazelwood, a two-time All-Southeastern Conference placekicker during his football career at Mississippi State (1995 to 1998). He later played four seasons as a placekicker in the arenafootball2 league, earning second-team all-league honors in three of his four seasons and in 2011 joined the Volleyball Bulldog staff as a volunteer assistant.
The Hazelwoods are the parents of two children, Allison Riley and Andrew Brian.