State VB Completes Sweep Of 'Bama With 3-1 Win In Season Finale
Rance, second in the SEC this fall with 443 kills, piled up 23 kills while Steinwedell tallied 14 kills and 14 digs in her final collegiate outing.
"I knew we'd have to play well today to beat Alabama, and though we were a little up and down at times, for the most part we did play well," said head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "It was a good finish to a season that included a lot of firsts for us --- our first win over a ranked opponent and multiple attendance records. And Caitlin has been so amazing. I can't say enough good things about what she has done to elevate our program."
Rance finished her career-best season with 443 kills, third-most in a season at State, and with 1,138 career kills, seventh among State's all-time leaders. Sunday she racked up her 11th career 20-kill performance and with 13 digs wrapped up her career with her 26th career double-double.
Steinwedell, a fourth-year junior, and sophomore setter Paris Perret also reached double-double status in the win over the Tide. Steinwedell, one of four departing veteran players honored prior to the match, finished with 14 kills and 14 digs and added four blocks, while Perret backed a 49-assist effort with 13 digs. Perret eclipsed the 1,000-assist mark for the second straight season, finishing with 1,016.
Senior middle blocker Hannah Wilkinson capped her career with nine kills on a .400 hitting performance and tacked on three blocks. She ended the campaign with a team-best .311 attack percentage and 87 blocks.
Alabama led by as many as four points in the opening set and did not trail until a kill by Rance put State on top 19-18. Rance would add two more kills in the frame and with Lainey Wyman at serve MSU reeled off seven straight points in a 25-19 win.
Wyman, who finished the day with eight kills and a match-leading five blocks, earned the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with a kill to open the second set. But Alabama's Andrea McQuaid was deadly in the second stanza, registering nine kills in 11 attack attempts as the Crimson Tide parlayed a match-best .250 hitting percentage into a match-evening 25-23 win. State made a late run, knotting the score at 23-23 before the tied prevailed on a pair of Bulldog miscues.
State took command of the match in the third set, hitting at a crisp .370 clip and using a pair of service aces by freshman Alex Scott and blocking combos by Steinwedell and Wyman to take an 7-3 lead. Rance, who opened the match with seven kills in the opening set, added six more in the third frame as MSU went up 2-1 in the match with a 25-17 win.
The two teams sparred on near equal terms in the fourth set. State led by as much as three in the early going while Alabama, riding the attacks of Kayla Fitterer, Leigh Moyer and McQuaid, kept pace and twice took two-point advantages late at 20-18 and 22-20. But MSU pout-pointed Bama 3-1 down the stretch to seal the match with a 26-24 win. Rance delivered six kills on 13 error-free swings while Steinwedell added five kills and a block in the frame.
MSU piled up 58 kills, its most in 12 matches, placed five players in double figures in digs and won the team blocking battle at the net 9-4. Steinwedell and libero Hillary Parker led the way with 14 digs while Rance and Perret followed with 13 and freshman Alex Scott tallied a career-high 11.
Bama's Andrea McQuaid was impressive with 22 kills on a .340 hitting performance. Behind her, Fitterer had 12 kills and two blocks and Leigh Moyer finished with nine. Cristina Arenas took match honors with 19 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Kaitlin Parker from Addison, Ala., making her collegiate debut in Sunday's season finale, tallied three kills and a block.
Mississippi State closed out its 37th season of volleyball with a 12-17 overall record and a 7-13 SEC worksheet. The Bulldogs, picked by league coaches to finish last in the SEC West, nailed down a third place finish in the West and came up a win short of matching the school record for SEC victories.