STARKVILLE, Miss. --- A veteran and a rookie starred for the Volleyball Bulldogs Friday night, powering Mississippi State to a season-opening straight-sets win over Jackson State in the first round of MSU’s Maroon Classic. A boisterous crowd of 1,605, second-largest volleyball attendance at the Newell-Grissom Building, cheered the Bulldogs on to 25-9, 25-9 and 25-17 wins.
Senior Chanelle Baker (Carrollton, Texas) piled up 13 kills on a .667 hitting night while freshman Taylor Scott (Claremont, Calif.), one of five first-year Bulldogs to see playing time in the match, added 13 kills of her own in an impressive collegiate debut.
The Bulldogs continue play in the two-day MSU Classic Saturday taking on ULM at 12:30 p.m. and first-time foe Kennesaw State at 7 p.m. KSU topped ULM 3-1 (25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 25-12) in Friday’s tourney-opener.
“We did a lot of the things that we set out to do tonight --- had good ball control, played good defense, and kept our mistakes to a minimum,” said fourth-year Bulldog head coach Jenny Hazelwood. “I thought the team did a great job tonight, especially when you consider how young we are.”
In addition to Scott, the Bulldog starting lineup also included rookie outside hitter Katie Enright (Novi, Mich.) and middle blocker Sarah Nielsen (Cypress, Texas), with defensive specialist Roxanne McVey (Magnolia, Texas) and middle blocker Alex Warren (San Antonio, Texas) seeing duty off the bench.
Defending SWAC champ Jackson State, one of six MSU opponents in 2012 that advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, scored the first point of the match on a kill by Jasmine Knight. But the Bulldogs forced 13 JSU attack errors in the opening set, bolting to a 10-point lead at 14-4 and cruising home to a 25-9 win.
The Bulldog offense got rolling early in the second period when State jumped out to an 8-1 advantage. Scott was dazzling in her second set of college volleyball, tallying seven of her 13 kills in the period. Her final point-producing swing gave the Bulldogs a 25-9 win in the stanza.
Baker, who registered eight kills in nine attacks in the first two frames, added five kills in the third set as State pulled away from a sluggish 6-6 start to nail down the season-opener with a 25-17 win. The MSU co-captain backed her 13-kill performance with 11 digs, notching the third double-double of her MSU career. “She did a good job of carrying a big bulk of our offense tonight,” said Hazelwood.
The Bulldogs hit .325 for the match, building a 36-25 edge in kills while leading 46-32 in digs and 15-7 in total blocks. Nielsen registered seven kills on a .545 hitting night while McVey took match honors with 21 digs. Warren, another rookie, paced MSU at the next with five blocks, including the team’s lone solo rejection. Perret finished the night with 32 assists, a pair of kills and two blocks.
Hazelwood expressed appreciation for the opening night gathering of Bulldog volleyball fans. “They were amazing. Our fans give us a lot of energy, and they seemed to get super excited and loud every time we made a big play,” she said.Jackson State got a 12-kill showing from Christine Edwards and a nine-dig effort from Dana Yoshimura.