“I was proud of the way we fought when things didn’t necessarily always go our way tonight,” fifth-year Bulldog head coach Jenny Hazelwood said. “Kentucky is a very athletic team with talented players and we were able to cause them several problems all night long. In the end, they were able to make the plays and we weren’t. Once this team matures and learns how to grind out these wins in the SEC, we’ll be on the other side of these outcomes.”
The match opened with a tightly-contested first set that featured 12 ties and four lead changes. MSU picked up the lead at 5-4 and held momentum until the Wildcats tied the match at 13. State managed to even the set a few more times before UK eventually pulled away for a 25-18 win. Freshman Kimmy Gardiner picked up four of her eight kills, while Roxanne McVey tacked on five digs in the opening frame.
State opened with a vengeance in the second set, forcing a Kentucky timeout with the Bulldogs leading 7-4. The Wildcats quickly tied it but Gardiner decided to show off her serving with an ace to give MSU the lead back. UK battled back to force a Hazelwood timeout with the set tied at 11 and then the two teams remained deadlocked until the Wildcats managed to pull ahead 19-17 and claim a 25-21 victory.
With momentum on their side, the Wildcats never let MSU gain much traction in the third set after jumping out to a quick 10-4 lead. The Bulldogs rebounded with their own run to cut it to 14-13 but it was not meant to be as UK pulled away for a 25-14 match-clinching win.
McVey finished the match with 26 digs, which is her season-best for a three-set match. Gardiner also narrowly missed her 10th double-double of the season with eight kills and 12 digs. Sophomore Taylor Scott contributed six kills and 11 digs.
A total of 1,003 fans filed into the Newell-Grissom Building as part of “Residence Life Night.” It is the second-highest attendance mark of the season and fifth-highest in the building’s history.
State will return to action Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. against Georgia in the program’s annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation match. 150 MSU foam fingers will be given away along 60 free cups of MSU ice cream on a first-come, first-serve basis.
After the weekend home stand concludes, the Bulldogs will hit the road for a pair of at No. 7 Missouri No. 22 and Arkansas Nov. 24 before returning home Nov. 27 for Senior Night against Alabama. MSU wraps up the season with a road trip to Tennessee on Nov. 30.