NEW ORLEANS, La. - Mississippi State snapped a four-match losing skid in impressive fashion Friday, racing to a straight-sets win over Sam Houston State (3-6) in the opening competition of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic hosted by Tulane.
In the second Friday match against host Tulane, Mississippi State hit a season-best .329 in winning a five-set thriller against the Green Wave (1-6). State (4-4) goes after the tournament championship Saturday in a 4:30 p.m. match against Pittsburgh.
Senior rightside hitter Chanelle Baker matched a season-high with a match-leading 13 kills while sophomore middle blocker Lainey Wyman tallied 11 kills and registered four blocks in her seasonal debut as the Bulldogs rolled past the Bearkats (25-22, 25-17, 25-16) in Friday's opener.
Wyman, a 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team selection, missed the Bulldogs first six matches over the season's first two weekends with health and disciplinary issues.
"It was great having Lainey back on the court," said coach Jenny Hazelwood. "She is one of our natural leaders, both with her aggressive play and with her vocal style on the court. Lainey is a go-to offensive player for us, and her presence on the court opens up a lot of possibilities for our other hitters. She's also one of our stronger servers, and that was a factor today too."
Baker and freshman Sarah Nielsen took advantage of those opportunities. Baker, team co-captain, backed her 13-kill, .550 hitting performance with four blocks and nine digs, while Nielsen finished with nine kills and season-best six blocks.
Junior setter Paris Perret was also a beneficiary of Wyman's return, registering 38 assists while bolstering the MSU defense with six blocks and nine digs.
State eclipsed the .300 mark in hitting for the second time this season, hitting .310 with 42 kills in 100 attack attempts. State finished with a 48-40 advantage in digs and an 11-7.5 edge in total team blocking.
Freshman Roxanne McVey, the SEC's digs leader, paced the MSU defense with a match-high 16 digs.
State held the upper hand throughout much of a match that featured just three lead changes in each of the three sets.
Kendall Cleveland led the Bearkats with 12 kills.
In the nightcap, State got solid performances from middle blockers Sarah Nielsen and Lainey Wyman in winning a five-set thriller (20-25, 25-22, 25-16, 22-25, 15-10) with the Green Wave (1-6). Nielsen delivered a season-best 21 kills and Wyman, in her second match of the season, piled up 19 kills.
"We were up and down in the match tonight, but we seemed to put it all together when we got our passing going. Our two middles (Nielsen and Wyman) combined for 40 kills tonight, and our success passing the ball helped make that possible," said Hazelwood. "It was a good team win for us. Now we need to concentrate on having that type of play on a consistent basis."
Rookie Taylor Scott also reached double digits and registered her third double-double of the year with 15 kills and a season-best 19 digs. Junior setter Paris Perret tallied 57 assists, her fourth-highest career total while Roxanne McVey took match honors with 25 digs.
The Bulldogs fell behind 7-2 in the first two sets, struggling to find a rhythm on offense. The Green Wave hit .324 and never trailed in winning the opening set 25-20. State rebounded from the poor start in the second set and pulled away from a 20-20 deadlock to even the match with a 25-22 win. Nielsen tallied six of 21 kills in the frame.
State got on a roll early against Tulane in the third frame when Nelson and Scott combined for 10 kills and the Bulldogs hit at a sizzling .486 clip. Despite an error-free six-kill performance by Wyman in the fourth set, the Green Wave managed to keep the match alive with a 25-22 win. TU used an early 9-0 run to regain momentum in the match and then held off an MSU charge that knotted the score at 22.
The Bulldogs had just one attack error in an efficient and balanced offensive showing in the deciding fifth set. Sarah Temperilli had three kills and Wyman, Nielsen and Scott chipped in two each as State pulled away from an early 2-2 tie to seal its first win in a five-set match this season.