MSU volleyball loses to rival Ole Miss in straight sets

MSU's Laura Rose Gray at the net
Staff Writer

Coming into Wednesday night, Mississippi State had recorded three-straight volleyball wins over instate rival Ole Miss.

MSU head coach David McFatrich, now in his third season, had never fell to the Rebels in his tenure with the Bulldogs.

All things come to an end, and for MSU, those streaks have now come crashing down.

Mississippi State fell to Ole Miss in straight sets at the Newell-Grissom building Wednesday. The Rebels won the first set 25-12, the second 25-13 and the third 26-24.

“We came out slow and you can’t do that,” McFatrich said. “I didn’t like our passion and energy at the beginning.

“I liked the way we competed in the third game, but you can’t decide to show up in the third game. This is the SEC. You can’t do that.”

MSU (9-9, 0-3) found it hard to sustain any momentum against Ole Miss (11-5, 2-1). The Rebels controlled the match all night long, save for the Bulldog surge in the tightly-contested third set.

“It was frustrating,” MSU freshman Sara Maddox said. “I think everyone was frustrated that it took us (until the third set) to get started.”

Perhaps no one was more flustered with State’s slow start than McFatrich. In a nationally-televised match, facing the rival Rebels in front of a lively crowd, McFatrich suggested that the stage might have been a bit too big for his young Bulldog roster in which seven of the 13 members are freshmen.

“(There were) 10 (of our players) have never been a part of this before,” McFatrich said.

Whether it was the pressure of the moment, or some other reason, MSU struggled to find its footing. Ole Miss jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set. State never got back any closer than four in the stanza.

It was more of the same in the second set. The Rebels scored 19 of the set’s first 22 points and took complete control of the match.

“I just think we lacked energy in the first two sets,” Maddox said. “Everyone was kind of dead. We came out kind of expecting to play the way we usually do, and we didn’t. It showed on the court. We just weren’t as excited as we usually are.”

Mississippi State finally came to life in the third set. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead as they looked to extend the match. After the set was tied at 24-all, Ole Miss clinched the win on a kill by Nayo Warnell followed by an attack error from Maddox.

McFatrich was thankful for the late fight from his team, and the support given to the Bulldogs from the stands, but it wasn’t enough on this night.

“The crowd was incredible and they stayed to the end even though their home team was getting beat and they helped us almost win (the third set),” McFatrich said. “Without a couple of close calls, we could have won that third game and who knows after all that? We’d have had all the momentum.”

Now, the Bulldogs are left to regroup ahead of a Sunday match at home against Kentucky. McFatrich is banking on a faster start as his club strives for their first conference win of the season.

“We have to learn lessons from (Wednesday),” McFatrich said. “Kentucky comes in on Sunday and they’re better than (Ole Miss). Kentucky is 10th-ranked in the nation, so we’ve got to learn some lessons.”
Maddox said the learning has already started for the Bulldogs.

“We learned a lot from this match (against Ole Miss),” Maddox said. “We learned what we can do and what we are capable of, coming out and playing as hard as we did in the third set. We just have to take it from there and grow as a team each match.”