MOBILE, Ala. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - After a tough start, Mississippi State rallied to defeat Southeastern Louisiana in four sets on Saturday (Sept. 8) to close out the third week of non-conference play.
The Bulldogs (4-6) overpowered the Lady Lions (1-8), 20-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-13 in the final match at the Jaguar Invitational.
"It's good to head home with a win," first-year coach Julie Darty said. "To see our response after dropping the first set, and to make a decision as a team to play with such a sense of urgency was nice to see. I think our passing was pretty good, because we relied heavily on AJ, Amarrah and Deja when we needed some big-time offense. From the service line, we were pretty good as well. When we can control the serve and pass game, that helps us be able to execute our game plan.
"I'm proud of the Dawgs for finishing with a win, and I think every time we play we look a little bit more comfortable with each other," Darty explained. "We still have plenty to improve upon, but I thought that in sets 2-4, we were pretty consistent as a group and consistency has been a big theme for us."
A kill by AJ Koele put the Dawgs on the board to start the match. A kills battle ensued as 11-straight points were totaled solely by kills to bring the score to 11-9, Mississippi State. The back-and-forth continued throughout the set, before two errors by the Bulldogs gave Southeastern Louisiana the set win. Amarrah Cooks had a .556 hitting percentage with five kills. Koele hit .800 with four kills.
Mississippi State continued to have some confusion on the court during the start of the second set, but a kill by Cooks and a service ace from Kendall Murr spurred a five-point spurt to push MSU into the lead, 9-7. Similarly to the first set, both teams were clicking on offense and a kill by Koele secured the set for the Bulldogs. Cooks had another impressive set hitting .714 and tallying five kills. Deja Robinson had three kills, a .429 hitting percentage and added two block assists.
Back-to-back errors by SLU put MSU ahead to start the third set. The Lady Tigers struggled to stop the Bulldogs attack game, and MSU propelled to a 19-6 lead. From there, the Bulldogs could not be stopped as they went on to win the set and take the 2-1 edge into the fourth set. Koele led the team with six kills and a .625 hitting percentage. Murr had six digs and one assist. Kath and Cooks both had two block assists, and Cooks added four kills.
Mississippi State capitalized on its attack game and benefitted from errors by Southeastern Louisiana to cruise to an early 10-3 lead. The Bulldogs had a six-point run, which included two service aces from Alleah Stamatis, to make it 20-8. The two teams exchanged sideout points down the stretch before a kill by Paige Shaw ended the match.
"AJ and Amarrah being named to the All-Tournament team is a nice nod for them," Darty commented. "I am proud of their consistent play this weekend."
The Bulldogs are on the road for the last non-conference weekend of the season. Mississippi State travels to Denton, Texas, for the North Texas Challenge. MSU will face host North Texas on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. On Friday, Sept. 14, MSU faces No. 22 Cal Poly at 3 p.m. The Bulldogs close out the weekend against Stephen F. Austin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15.
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