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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Volleyball dominates opening weekend

At Newell Grissom, Mississippi State Volleyball kicked off this weekend with the Bulldog Invitational against Kansas, Lamar, Eastern Washington and McNeese State. 

On Friday, the Bulldogs began the invitational against the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks. Senior duo Chelsea Duhs and Jazmyn Johnson kept the Bulldogs in close range, but the Jayhawks cruised their way to a 3-0 sweep. Along with a tight defensive performance from the Jayhawks, a series of errors ruined the Bulldogs. 

Even with the loss, the Bulldogs were able to showcase their powerhouse senior talent with Evie Grace Singleton, who earned eight kills and Bali Leffal-Young, who totaled four blocks. 

Opening night was the third largest crowd in Newell Grissom, tallying 1,409 supporters for the Bulldogs. 

“Our fans are amazing, and I cannot thank them enough for showing up and being as electric as they were,” MSU Head Coach David McFatrich said. 

On day 2 of the Invitational, Mississippi State faced Lamar and Eastern Washington University in a Saturday double header. MSU opened up the day with a 3-2 overtime win over Lamar. Freshman Emily Hill debuted her skills and shined, earning eighteen kills, eight blocks and five digs.

 Lamar kept up with Mississippi State, delivering   better performances each set. It was a showcase of the Bulldogs endurance to successfully outlast  Lamar. Another talented freshman, Riley Duzenack, made her mark with 3 kills and 39 assists. Junior Payton Harris showed her veteran status by leading the Bulldogs with twenty digs.

Later that night, the Bulldogs battled EWU and completed their first sweep, winning 3-0. The team found success early with Jazmyn Johnson and Evie Grace Singleton leading at the forefront. Singleton started early with five kills in the first set. In the second set,  confusion on defense resulted in EWU gaining momentum. Transfer student Jelena Vujcin gave the Bulldogs the strength they needed to compose themselves and pull out the win.

McFatrich was very impressed with how Vucjin has been playing.

 “She’s been doing a great job for starting just three weeks ago,”McFatrich said. “Her best volleyball is truly ahead of her, and I can’t wait until when she starts doing great things frequently.” 

The sweep wasn’t easy to complete as a treacherous 0-5 start to the third set put the Bulldogs in jeopardy. Eastern Washington’s Sophie Miller and Chloe Weber started the set with dominance and strength. 

The Bulldogs had a late surge of competitiveness as Chelsea Duhs took charge in her offensive stance on the left side. 

“My teammates knew I was a hot hitter,” Duhs said. “I could feel them around me and keeping me in the zone. The passers did a great job by keeping the ball in my direction.” 

Coach McFatrich applauded the team on their first sweep after their difficulties defeating Lamar. 

“We were really discombobulated against Lamar due to one of our starters getting injured in warmups before Lamar,” McFatrich said. “It disturbed our rhythm,  and one thing this game requires is to keep a rhythm going.”

On the final day of the Bulldog Invitational, the Bulldogs ended the tournament competing against McNeese State University. 

 Both teams were sharp on offense and defense but faced difficulties obtaining a steady rhythm. Mississippi State ended up pulling out a close win 3-2. The Bulldogs started the match on a powerful note with Singleton leading them to an early 18-9 win. 

In Set 2, McNeese was adamant about how they passed and defended. The Bulldogs dominated early, but McNeese State pushed for a comeback. McNeese State could not complete the comeback, and the Bulldogs earned a 2-0 lead, winning 25-22.

McNeese was in full throttle in the third and fourth set. Hailee Showers and Bridget Justus led McNeese to jump out to a 14-10 lead and offensive errors from the Bulldogs kept McNeese ahead. The Bulldogs could not get into a rhythm, losing set 3, 25-18, and set 4, 25-19. 

Set 5 was a test of precise technique for both teams. McNeese attempted to bring the same intensity from sets three and four. Bulldogs Katie Nicholson and Jelena Vujcin led the team by quickly correcting their blocking and kills on McNeese’s most dominated side. This set began in their favor with a 4-2 lead. 

McNeese did not quit, fighting from the largest gap of 12-8. Bridget Justis and Alexandra Aguilera fought to the end with game saving digs and important blocks to prolong the game. Game errors extended the game until the Bulldogs won the nail biting 19th point to win the set 19-17 and the match 3-2. 

“I feel good about winning the close games,” Coach McFatrich said.  “Last year we didn’t close games like these. We didn’t win the 5 game matches up to 2-0 like we did against Lamar and McNeese.” 

Evie Grace Singleton earned 20 kills and 3 aces with Emily Hill adding fourteen kills of her own. Payton Harris also collected 20 digs to seal the hard fought battle against McNeese State. 

McFatrich and the team are now 3-1, focusing on the Little Rock Invitational against UT Martin on September 2. They return home to the Griss on September 16 to compete against Florida International.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Volleyball dominates opening weekend