“I could not be more proud of the way this team fought,” fifth-year MSU coach Jenny Hazelwood said. “Georgia is not an easy place to play and we fell behind early. This team never quits though and we’ve shown it all season long. That toughness will pay off down the stretch.”
Freshman Kimmy Gardiner got things going for the Bulldogs on the afternoon with five kills in the first set but Georgia overcame an early deficit to win 25-16. The Maroon-clad Bulldogs managed to pull within a point of the Red-clad Bulldogs several times but never could to tie the set up.
Just like the opening frame, MSU took the first point of the second only to have UGA steal the lead back 5-2. Behind the right arm of Gardiner, State capitalized on a few mid-set opportunities to earn a chance to tie the set but could not pull it off. MSU cut it to 16-15 after a UGA timeout, but a 10-2 run did the State in. Georgia claimed the set 25-18.
The third set looked to be a sleeper early as Georgia jumped up to a quick 7-2 but MSU wouldn’t go away. After a Hazelwood timeout, MSU stormed back to tie it at seven after a solo block from freshman Brooke Sassin but the Bulldogs weren’t done. UGA regained a slight 12-10 lead only to see the other Bulldogs sprint back with a 7-0 run to take a lead they wouldn’t give up. State recorded a season-most seven blocks in the third set alone and won 25-18.
Mississippi State never gave Georgia a chance in the fourth stanza after taking a quick 7-3 lead. The Maroon Bulldogs would only widen their lead from there and eventually claimed a 25-18 victory.
With the match evened up, the excitement was yet to come. MSU earned the first point of the final frame off an attack error and the back-and-forth began. The set remained tied until UGA gained an 11-9 advantage to force a Hazelwood timeout. Out of the timeout, the Bulldogs recouped the lead and earned match point at 14-13.
Georgia fended off the match point with a kill and set up its first clinching opportunity at 15-14, only to have it foiled by a service error. UGA’s second match point at 16-15 was thwarted with a Gardiner kill but the red-clad Bulldogs ended it just three points later at 18-16.
Four MSU players recorded double-doubles in the match, beginning with Gardiner’s 21 kills and 10 digs. It was her 10th double-double of the season, which ties for the national lead among NCAA freshmen.
Taylor Scott also recorded her 10th double-double of the season and 17th of her young career. State’s duo of setters also contributed a pair of double-doubles. Suzanne Horner posted 25 assists and 11 digs, while Katlyn Mataya turned in 23 assists to go along with 14 digs.
The Bulldogs’ middle blockers combined for nine kills and 14 blocks, nine of which belonged to Alex Warren.
Sassin earned her first SEC start and tallied six kills, five digs and five blocks.
MSU blocked a season-most 15 attacks in the match, which is also the most by the Bulldogs in a conference match since Oct. 3, 2010.
Next up, MSU will travel to Alabama (17-6, 5-4) on Nov. 1 followed by a matchup with Auburn (13-8, 4-5) on Nov. 3 that will be televised by CSS. When MSU returns home on Nov. 6, it will face Ole Miss (11-10, 1-7) at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.