HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Day two of the Sam Houston Invitational proved a step in the right direction for the Mississippi State volleyball Bulldogs (1-3), as they picked up their first win of the 2014 season on Saturday.
The Bulldogs kicked off the day with a 3-1 victory against the UT-Pan American Broncs, but fell 3-0 to the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks to close out tournament play.
“Once again, I am very proud of our girls and how they played today,” head coach Jenny Hazelwood said. “We still have some things to work on and areas to improve in, but we are getting better and we keep fighting in every match.”
The first set between the Bulldogs and the Broncs was a back-and-forth affair, with 13 ties and eight lead changes. UTPA would come out on top in the opening frame, 25-21, but that was all State would concede to the Broncs.
Hazelwood’s squad would jump out to several small leads in the second, but never getting further than four points ahead of UTPA. After trading leads as both teams approached the 20-point mark, a kill from freshman Emily Howard sparked a five-point run to close the set, with an ace from Payton Harris and a kill from Cheyenne Spell sealing the second frame.
MSU controlled most of the third set early on before the Broncs would make a rally. UTPA gained a 21-20 lead late in the set, but that would be their last of the match, as State reeled off five-straight points to give itself a 2-1 lead. From there, it was all Maroon and White, as Hazelwood’s squad dominated the final frame to take the match, 3-1.
The Bulldogs’ first win was highlighted by their strong offensive play, especially in the final two sets where they hit over .300. Chelsea Duhs and Howard paced State’s offense with 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Both Shelby Anderton and Katlyn Mataya turned in 21 assists for the match, with Mataya adding 13 digs for a double-double. Harris, the Bulldog libero, led the squad with 32 digs in the first contest.
Alex Warren joined Howard with six total blocks. Senior Kelsey Stommes turned in five kills and a .250 hitting percentage, her highest in her MSU career, while Tyra Long made her collegiate debut against UTPA, putting up six kills for State.
MSU got off to a quick start in the second match of the day against ULM. However, the Warhawks would fight back to make it a back-and-forth contest, eventually pulling away in the end behind a kill and a Bulldog attack error. The second set proved to be much of the same, as MSU jumped ahead 4-1 out the gate, but found themselves in a deadlock with the Warhawks midway through the frame. ULM used a 7-2 run and a 6-0 run in the later stretches of the set to take a 2-0 lead.
MSU stayed close for most of the third set, even grabbing the lead at one point. However, ULM proved to be too much, as they went on to take the set and the match, 25-18.
Duhs led the Bulldogs in kills for the second-straight match, with seven, while also turning in 11 digs. Mataya led State in assists with 14, while also picking up 12 digs, making that four double-doubles as a Bulldog. Harris, who was named to the Sam Houston Invitational All-Tournament team, again led MSU in digs with 25.
Anjane Janda led UTPA with eight kills, while Mary Kate Clark earned 21 assists. The Warhawks’ attack was spearheaded by Hadley Swartz (17 kills) and Hope Pawlik (13 kills). Bayleigh Hoffman turned in a double-double for ULM with 37 assists and 15 digs.
State will now turn its attention to the upcoming Indiana Invitational, which takes place Sept. 5-6. The tournament’s field includes the host Indiana, Southeastern Missouri State and Miami [OH].
For more information and updates on Mississippi State volleyball, fans can follow the Bulldogs on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at HailStateVB.