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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Online Only: MSU volleyball takes on No. 8 Kentucky, Tennessee over weekend

    Mississippi State volleyball (5-14, 1-7 SEC) is set to take on No. 8 Kentucky (17-1, 7-0 SEC) today at Newell-Grissom in a 7 p.m. match as the team looks to get its second SEC win of the season after defeating Ole Miss last Friday. On Sunday, the Bulldogs will face Tennessee (12-5, 5-2 SEC) in a 1:30 p.m. match.
    Kentucky enters the match having reached 17 wins in five straight seasons under head coach Craig Skinner after defeating Georgia on Sunday. The win, along with a Florida loss by way of Louisiana State, gives Kentucky the SEC lead and a possibility of an appearance in the conference title game despite 18-consecutive SEC titles by Florida.
    Head coach Jenny Hazelwood expects the Wildcats to be at their best in the match while posing a welcome challenge.
    “I think it’s one of those matches that can be a lot of fun for us to play because a great team is going to be on the other side of the net,” she said. “Great teams push you to be better.”
    One of Kentucky’s main strengths this season has been the team’s ability to have a fast-paced offense that is able to set up a quick strike to catch teams unprepared, resulting in easier shots to defend.
    “They’re a good ball control team, and we’ve got to do a good job getting them out of system and find areas where they may struggle,” Hazelwood said.
    Assistant coach Brandon Higa said it all comes down to MSU taking care of its side of the court in order to reduce mistakes and, as a result, become a more solid team.
    “We’ve really made a lot of improvement and changes the last two weeks,” Higa said. “I think one thing that has helped is we’ve been able to give them a very focused and specific game plan, and they’re really starting to understand what we’re trying to do and make those changes and prepare for teams in practice.”
    Tennessee will provide another test for MSU in Sunday’s match. The Lady Vols play Alabama in Tuscaloosa today at 7 p.m. after coming off a straight-sets win against Auburn on Sunday.
    “They may be the best blocking team in our conference, and they’ve got some really strong hitters,” Hazelwood said. “They run the 6-2 which means they always have six hitters, and so they have offensive weapons coming from every area of the court.”
    Tennessee recently received votes for the initial NCAA Division I Volleyball RPI of the 2009 campaign as the Lady Vols found themselves ranked 20th in the nation. The Lady Vols also received votes from the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s weekly poll, earning nine votes.
    The NCAA RPI rankings take into consideration strength of schedule and the team’s record on the road and at home.
    MSU heads into the weekend ranked last in the SEC West behind Ole Miss (7-11, 1-7 SEC) due to overall record.
    Assistant coach Lindi Bankowski said the team is beginning to realize how important it is to not only prepare, but also how to translate the game plan and execute on the court.
    “They have the ability to win a lot more matches this season, but it’s in their hands to make up their minds and come out and do it,” she said.
    Senior setter Dorey Gray said any team in the SEC has the ability to win in any given match, and the mentality of the team is positive and determined despite few victories.
    “The mentality has gotten stronger every week but instead of getting down, we use it as fuel to get better,” she said.

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    Online Only: MSU volleyball takes on No. 8 Kentucky, Tennessee over weekend