BOONE, N.C. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Despite the five set loss earlier in the day, Mississippi State came out with a vengeance to sweep host Appalachian State on Saturday.
In the first match of the day, Davidson won 23-25, 15-25, 25-19, 25-19, 11-15. For the second match of the day, MSU swept ASU 27-25, 25-23, 25-18.
“What a day for the Dawgs. I’m so proud of our response and so excited for this team,” first year coach Julie Darty said. “We have played a lot of volleyball this weekend, and I think we have gotten better as a unit. The serve and pass game continues to get better because we are getting our middles involved in our offense and Alleah and Deja are carrying a huge load for us and are being super efficient up there, especially in transition. I think we can go home and say that we learned a lot as a team and we truly played better volleyball this weekend.”
Match one vs. Davidson
Mississippi State started off the first set leading 2-1 after back-to-back kills by AJ Koele and Paige Shaw. For a majority of the set, no team led by more than two points. No team led by more than two points until back-to-back kills by Koele and Shaw and a service ace by Alleah Stamatis helped to give some momentum to the Bulldogs as MSU pushed ahead to 20-16. Davidson then called a timeout, and the Wildcats were able to surge to grab set one. Shaw had six kills and Morgan Kath had 12 assists. Kendall Murr added seven digs.
The Bulldogs struggled to control a strong Davidson attack game in the second set loss. Deja Robinson had nine kills on 11 attempts for a .818 hitting percentage and Amarrah Cooks added four kills. The Wildcats capitalized on seven Bulldog errors to win the set.
MSU got off to a slow start before going on a seven-point run to get ahead of the Wildcats, 12-6. The roles switched between the two teams in the third set as Davidson struggled to stop MSU’s attack game. Cooks and Koele both notched six kills. Robinson had three kills, a service ace and a solo block. Davidson rallied to get back into it, but it was not enough as the Bulldogs won on an attack error.
From the start of the fourth set, MSU had strong continuity on the floor. The Bulldogs went on a five-point spurt, 10-5, with four kills coming from Carr and Cooks who both had two. Back-to-back service aces by Davidson’s Mason Rooney made the match tight at 14-13 Bulldogs. Both teams took advantage of errors as the set wore on, with Mississippi State building a 20-17 edge on a service error by Davidson. Three straight kills, two from Robinson and one from Carr, forced a fifth set for the Bulldogs. Cooks had five kills and Kath had 15 assists with Murr tallying 10 digs.
A kills battle ensued in the fifth set, with Davidson grabbing a four-point streak to build an 8-4 advantage before MSU pulled back within one, 10-9. The rally was not enough as Davidson went on to take the match with five of the final seven points.
“It was another tough match for our team,” Darty said. “I think the serve and pass game is starting to go our way, because we are getting our middles involved in the offense more. Our biggest focus right now is managing errors and having consistent play as a team. I’m so proud of Deja for stepping up today and really showing us what she can do. Deja and Amarrah were on, and it was so helpful for our offense to be more efficient.
“I want these losses to be lessons,” Darty said. “We have to get comfortable playing gritty and hard for an entire match. We are having glimmers of good play but we need to stretch those moments out over longer periods of time. I’m proud of Morgan for running a balanced offense. Overall, we served pretty tough, but we just made too many errors. We just need to manage.”
Match two vs. Appalachian State
Appalachian State took an early 4-0 lead to start the set, but an ace by Kath helped get the Bulldogs on track. Mississippi State then went on a five-point streak to inch closer to the Mountaineers’ lead, 16-14. After three straight kills by Appalachian State, Darty called a timeout to stymie the turning tide. Mississippi State then went on to tighten the ASU lead, 20-19. An attack error by ASU secured the win for the Dawgs. Robinson had four kills with a .571 hitting percentage. Cooks had three kills and one block solo.
In the earlier half of the set, the score was close as there was never more than two point lead for either team. After an ace from Appalachian State’s Grace Kinsch, MSU went on a five-point run to make the score 12-9 Bulldogs. Appalachian State called a timeout and Mississippi State struggled to stop ASU’s attack game. The Mountaineers went on a six point stint to take the lead, 15-12. State battled back to retake the lead, 22-20, after an attack error by ASU and a service ace by Murr. The set remained close as MSU went on to win. Koele had five kills, Kath had 12 assists and Stamatis tallied four digs.
Both teams came out strong to start the third set. But once Mississippi State got moving, there was no turning. A kill by Carr got the momentum going for the squad as they continued to capitalized on kills to move ahead, 17-11. Three errors in a row by the Mountaineers escalated the Bulldogs’ lead to 22-15. A kill by Koele secured the match for the Dawgs. Cooks and Robinson both had over .500 hitting percentages. Kath had 14 assists and Murr had seven digs.
I’m so proud of the overall team effort on defense tonight against a very talented App State team. We held it together under pressure and this is the most poised I have seen this group. Kanani price was that fire we needed and I’m so proud of her energy and effort that she brought in such a powerful way today.
For the next three rounds of matches, the Bulldogs head to Mobile, Alabama, for the Jaguar Invitational. MSU faces Louisiana Tech on Friday, Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m. and host South Alabama at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the squad faces Southeastern Louisiana at Noon.