After trailing 2-1 in the match, the Bulldogs rallied for a 25-21 win in the fourth set to force a deciding fifth frame, won 15-11 by the Owls (3-0), who nipped State for the tourney crown.
"We saw a lot of good things from our team this weekend, particularly from our young players," said head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "Roxanne was amazing tonight and throughout the tournament, and Sarah Nielsen led us tonight with 13 kills and gave our offense a boost. But down the stretch we didn't take care of the little things that become so important when you get into a close match with a talented team like Kennesaw State."
Errors proved costly. State had 35 attack errors in the title match, 13 by talented freshman Taylor Scott. In spite of the misfires, the rookie registered 12 kills and 17 digs for her second double-double of the day. "She battled hard today and like some of the other new players might have gotten a little tired tonight. But that's all a part of the learning process, learning how to push through times like that."
McVey, whose 42 digs broke the Mississippi State single-match digs record (39) set in 1991 by Shauna Owens, and rookie middle blocker Sarah Nielsen, represented Mississippi State on the Maroon Classic All-Tournament team. The all-tourney team also included Marcela Araya of ULM, Dana Yoshimura of Jackson State and Kennesaw State's Camille Pedraza and Sara Metroka, the MVP.
Senior Chanelle Baker tallied 10 kills and 20 digs to earn her second double-double of the year.
State got eight blocks from freshman middle Alex Warren and seven from Baker en route to a 14-11 advantage in total team blocking. KSU held a 65-55 edge in kills, led by Turea Jones' 18-kill performance, and played solidly on defense with a 111-109 edge in digs. Pedraza finished with 31 digs to lead a foursome of Owls with 20 or more digs.
In a Saturday afternoon match, the Bulldogs overcame a strong challenge from the ULM Warhawks in a closely-contested defensive struggle. State piled up 112 digs and freshman Taylor Scott notched her first career double-double in a 3-1 Bulldog win (28-30, 25-18, 25-18, 25-18).
Scott registered a match-high 21 kills and backed that with 23 digs as State, after dropping the opening set in a 30-28 marathon, claimed the last three sets by identical 25-18 scores.
Another Bulldog rookie stood tall for State's offense. Sarah Nielsen registered 15 kills and hit a team-best .379. Five Bulldogs reached double digits in digs. Chanelle Baker set a career-best with 29, freshman Roxanne McVey added 25, Scott had 23, junior setter Paris Perret 17 and Alex Scott 10. Perret also finished the match with 45 assists for her 15th career double-double.
The Warhawks amassed an impressive 16-3 edge in total team blocking. Iren Marinova led the match with seven total blocks. Zuzana Markova finished with 13 kills and Samantha Morse had 12.
State again relied heavily on its younger players, with freshmen accounting for 45 of the team's 56 kills.
Mississippi State resumes non-conference tournament play next weekend in Los Angeles, Calif., joining host Southern Cal, Northern Iowa and Boston College in the Luxe City Center Trojan Invitational.