HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Despite impressive play from a number of Bulldogs, both new and old, the Mississippi State volleyball squad (0-2) dropped a pair of matches at the Sam Houston Invitational to open its 2014 campaign.
State fell in three sets in the season opener against Bakersfield. In the nightcap, the Bulldogs pushed the homestanding Sam Houston State Bearkats to four sets, but could not capitalize, falling 3-1.
The Bulldogs will return to action on Saturday, as they face Texas-Pan American at 11:30 a.m. CT, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe at 4:30 p.m.
MSU struggled to find its rhythm in the first match of the year. State held the lead early on, but the Roadrunners pulled away in the waning moments to take the first set, 25-15.
The second set also proved to be in favor of CSUB, never relinquishing the lead to take the second frame, 25-17. State would stay within striking distance for the early portion of the third, but would fall, 25-14, giving the Roadrunners the match.
Freshman Payton Harris, one of six native Texans and with family in stands, paced the Bulldogs with 20 digs in her collegiate debut. Veterans Alex Warren and Katlyn Mataya led State in kills and assists, with nine and 18, respectively.
The day’s second match proved to be a step in the right direction for the young Bulldog squad.
After dropping the first set, 25-14, MSU roared back in the second behind a late rally that rocketed State past SHSU on the scoreboard. The Bearkats would mount a minor comeback, but the Bulldogs kept them at bay, taking the second set 25-19. Leticia Valente, a freshman from Brazil, was key in State’s second-set win, earning four kills, four digs and a block assist in the frame.
The third set was a back-and-forth battle to start, as the Bulldogs forced six ties. Tied at 8-8, the Bearkats began to pull away as they grew their lead to as large as 11 before taking the set, 25-14. The home squad would fend off State in the fourth frame, going on to take the set and the match, 25-14.
“Today was tough for us, “MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood said. “Not the start we wanted, but I am proud of our team for playing well in a tough situation.”
After day one, Warren leads the Bulldogs with 14 kills, followed closely by sophomore Chelsea Duhs and Valente, both with 11. Mataya tops the Maroon and White in assists with 28, while transfer setter Shelby Anderton is second with 19.
In her first collegiate experience, Harris earned 43 digs between the two contests as State’s libero. Emily Howard, another Texas Bulldog, is tied for the team lead in blocks with Valente, both tallying 6.0 total after day one.
Sydney Haynes led the Roadrunners in kills with 18, while Luiza Martins turned in 42 assists. SHSU’s Devene Wells-Gibson put up 25 kills and 18 digs for the Bearkats in the last match of the day, while Michelle Griffith earned 47 assists and 15 digs.
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