STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – The Mississippi State volleyball program and head coach Julie Darty have announced the 30-match schedule for the 2019 season, which includes a pair of home tournaments and 15 total matches inside the Newell-Grissom Building.
“We have a core group of returners and an exciting group of newcomers joining our program this fall and we are very excited with the schedule we have built,” said Darty. “We are playing some really good teams, really close to home and I think that’s something to note. We don’t have to go far to find good teams and we are going to get tested early without traveling too far. We have a young group in terms of experience playing together, but we are a seasoned group. The maturity of our team has shown during the offseason with some very strong leadership emerging.”
Mississippi State will kick off the 2019 campaign by hosting the StarkVegas Classic on August 30-31. The season kicks off with a pair of matches on Friday, August 30, as MSU opens versus Chattanooga in the first match of the tournament before facing Mississippi Valley State in the nightcap of day one. The StarkVegas Classic closes with a match versus Western Illinois on Saturday, August 31.
September begins with six-straight road matches, including five against teams with winning records from a season ago. A trip down I-59 to Hattiesburg for the Southern Miss Classic will open the month, as State will play New Orleans (9/6), Arkansas State (9/7) and Southern Miss (9/7) in the tournament. The following weekend, the Bulldogs travel to the Gamecock Classic to face a field that includes Stetson (9/13), Sam Houston State (9/13) and host Jacksonville State (9/14).
The final tune-up before SEC play begins will run from September 19-20 inside the Newell-Grissom Building, with Mississippi State hosting the Hail State Invitational. The field will include a pair of long-time opponents and add one new opponent to the all-time ledger. State will play Jackson State for the 24th time in program history to start the event on Thursday, September 19, before closing out the opening day with its first-ever meeting against North Florida. The Maroon and White will then close out non-conference play versus UAB on Friday, September 20.
“Hosting two home tournaments is something that we are really excited about,” Darty said. “I feel like there is a good energy about volleyball here at State. We are bringing in some talented teams both at the StarkVegas Classic and the Hail State Invitational, and there is going to be a lot of good volleyball to come check out early in the season.”
MSU will have nearly a full week to get ready for SEC competition, which features seven matches versus teams that reached the 2018 NCAA Tournament, including four opponents that finished last season ranked in the top 25.
“Looking at the SEC, top to bottom, it doesn’t matter who is across the net, each match is always tough,” Darty said. “I hope that our group can lean on the experiences from last season and grow from it. We are focused on the process and we were in some close matches last year, and I think that we can continue to take strides in the right direction this season.”
The opening week of conference play will send State to Lexington, Kentucky to face 2018 Sweet 16 qualifier Kentucky on Friday, September 27. After facing the Wildcats on the road, MSU returns home to host LSU (9/29) and Ole Miss (10/4) in front of a three-match road swing.
After opening the month of October at home versus the Rebels, Mississippi State will bookend its road trip with 2018 NCAA Tournament opponents. A trip to South Carolina on Sunday, October 6 is followed with stops at Alabama on Wednesday, October 9 and at Tennessee on Sunday, October 13. That road trip is followed by three-straight home contests, beginning with Texas A&M on Friday, October 18 and Arkansas on Sunday, October 20. After hosting Auburn (10/25), MSU travels to NCAA Tournament regular Missouri (10/27) to close out the month.
Contests at Auburn (11/1) and at LSU (11/3) will begin the month of November, before MSU plays four of its final six matches at home. State will host South Carolina (11/6), 2018 NCAA Sweet 16 participant Florida (11/10) and Georgia (11/17), before taking trips to Texas A&M (11/22) and Arkansas (11/24). The regular season finale will match the Bulldogs with the Volunteers for the second time in 2019 on Saturday, November 30.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will take place on Sunday, December 1, before the opening rounds of the tournament are hosted at campus sites from December 5-7, 2019.