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Gardiner Shines In Freshman Battle, Bulldogs Fall To Alabama

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Kimmy Gardiner turned in 23 kills, nine digs, four blocks and three assists as she faced another of the SEC's top freshmen.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

TUSACALOOSA, Ala. – In a battle of two of the Southeastern Conference’s top freshmen, Mississippi State rookie Kimmy Gardiner turned in 23 kills, nine digs, four blocks, three assists and an ace as the Bulldogs (11-12, 2-7) dropped a four-set slugfest to the Alabama Crimson Tide (18-6, 6-4) Friday night in Foster Auditorium.

Sophomore libero Roxanne McVey passed milestone in the match with her 1,000th-career dig. The Magnolia, Texas, native broke the SEC record a season ago with 5.64 digs per set and is just off that pace this season.

“I thought we played well enough to win in some areas tonight but overall we just didn’t get the job done,” fifth-year Bulldog head coach Jenny Hazelwood said after the match. “We typically serve the ball very well but that area of our game broke down tonight. We must become more consistent to win matches on the road in this league and I have confidence our girls will do that.”

Mississippi State seized momentum right out of the gate, jumping up to a 9-4 lead to force Alabama into its first timeout of the night. UA rallied to tie the opening stanza and even gained a 13-12 advantage but Gardiner had seen enough and ignited the Bulldogs with one of her 23 kills, a conference match-best of her young career. State would go on to win the first frame 25-23.

Alabama quickly took control of the match in the second set and forced Hazelwood into a timeout after a 6-1 run gave the Tide a 7-3 advantage. MSU cut into the lead late in the set but UA finished strong for a 25-19 win. Bama also claimed the third stanza in similar fashion at 25-16.

The fourth set ran to much of the same tune. State battled early but three straight points by the Crimson Tide gave them a 16-14 lead that sealed the deal. The Bulldogs could never pull even and surrendered the clincher 25-21.

Sophomore Taylor Scott also posted a strong outing with 15 kills and seven digs, while freshman Brooke Sassin notched a career-high nine kills to go along with five digs.

The setting duo of Suzanne Horner (24) and Katlyn Mataya (23) turned in 47 assists, while Mcvey led the way with 21 digs. Horner turned in eight digs and Scott notched seven.

Gardiner was named Co-SEC Freshman of the Week Monday morning along with Alabama freshman Krystal Rivers, who finished the match two and a half points shy of Gardiner at 23.5.

Next up, MSU travels to the Plains for a matchup with the Auburn Tigers (14-8, 5-5) that will be televised on CSS at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

The Bulldogs return home Wednesday, Nov. 6, to face Ole Miss (11-11, 1-8) in the 80th meeting between the two schools. The match will be televised nationally on ESPNU and a multitude of promotional giveaways will take place. It will also mark the 200th match in the Newell-Grissom Building’s history.

Fans can follow the Mississippi State volleyball program on Twitter @HailStateVB, Instagram @HailStateVB and Facebook at facebook.com/HailStateVB.


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