STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - On the second day of the StarkVegas Classic, Mississippi State had trouble finding its groove.
At Newell-Grissom, Georgia State defeated Mississippi State, 21-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-25, in four.
"I was impressed today more-so than last night," first-year head coach Julie Darty said. "I thought we had a little more grit and a little bit more fight than we had last night. I told our captains that it's going to be a lot of growing pains this year. There's a new team and a new staff with a lot of new faces. We feel like we have some pieces to the puzzle, but I don't think we have all of those pieces there yet. We're trying to find something that works and the goal for us is to find a lineup that exposes our strengths and hides our weaknesses. You certainly can tell our weaknesses at this point, and we just have to get in the gym for practice this week and really fine-tune our serve-and-pass game and just trust the process."
A trio of errors by Georgia State gave Mississippi State the 3-0 lead to start the first set, but the Panthers capitalized on the lack of communication from the Bulldogs to push ahead, 12-7. MSU was able to fight back to pull within one, 15-14, with kills attributed to Amarrah Cooks and Alleah Stamatis, and two from Taylor Haskins. Haskins had four kills along with 4.5 points and Kendall Murr registered eight digs.
Georgia State dominated the second set as they never trailed in the 25-14 set win. The Bulldogs struggled to find constancy on defense. The Mississippi State offense piled up 18 kills and 4.0 blocks, but GSU had 31 kills, and Sarah Renner had 25 assists.
The Bulldogs came out with more confidence during the third set, as a four-point run pushed them out to an 8-5 lead, with kills coming from Cooks and Paige Shaw. Stamatis earned her first ace during her Mississippi State tenure, before a back-and-forth exchange ensued. Cooks owned a .419 hitting percentage on four kills and 5.5 points. AJ Koele hit at .500 on six swings and three kills. Murr added seven digsin a 25-22 MSU set win.
Similarly to sets one and two, Georgia State was clicking on offense with 18 kills and a .900 hitting percentage. Shaw had three kills and Haskins had two. Morgan Kath and Gabby Zgunda had five digs apiece while Murr added six digs in the match-deciding set.
"We know it's not going to be an instant, overnight success for this program," Darty said. "That's on me--I have to have a four-year approach. I have to trust that this is going to be a long-term plan. The girls, we want them to have a one-match, one-day kind of approach, where they're just worried about that one day or that one opponent and nothing besides that."
On Sunday, Mississippi State closes out the StarkVegas Classic facing Cal Baptist at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network +. This will be the first meeting ever between the two teams.
Murr had 21 aces, which brings her weekend total to 43.
Zgunda added to her impressive 42 digs from Friday with the addition of 15 more.
Koele had eight digs.
Stamatis had 18 assists.
Haskins had 8.5 points