MSU volleyball team opens with wins
Ashley Newsome is fired up about another Mississippi State volleyball season.
At one point during the third set, the senior from Florence, Ala., celebrated with a joyful clap and stomp after the Bulldogs took a 15-12 lead.
MSU went on to sweep the opener 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 against Arkansas-Little Rock at the Newell-Grissom Building Friday afternoon during the Maroon Classic.
Newsome was just chomping at the bit to get back on the court for another season.
"We're finally so excited to play someone other than ourselves," Newsome said. "It was good to come out, play hard and win."
The Bulldogs won their seventh-straight season-opener and improved their record in the series with the Trojans to 2-6.
MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood said the players deserved to have a good time.
"It was fun to see them enjoy what they are doing because they work so hard and you want it to be fun for them," Hazelwood said.
It was obvious the Bulldogs were having fun from the start as they held a 12-9 lead in the first set and took control with six-straight points to increase the margin to 18-9. A putaway by Newsome began the run.
A putaway by Hannah Wilkinson clinched the first set for MSU.
In the second set, Arkansas-Little Rock earned the first point, but the Bulldogs came right back to gain a 3-1 advantage off the serve of Faith Steinwedell.
After moving out to as much as a 19-14 lead, MSU experienced its first bit of a test this season when the Trojans cut the difference to 20-19.
However, the Bulldogs never lost the lead and a pair of putaways by Caitlin Rance were a key in it getting five of the next six points, including the deciding tally.
It was much the same story in the third set as MSU jumped out to a 7-4 lead, but couldn't seem to put the Trojans away. UALR cut the margin to 10-8 and later to 21-19, but couldn't quite do enough to ever gain the advantage.
"We knew Little Rock was going to be a team with a lot of talent, but they are fairly inexperienced playing together so we knew we had to catch them early because they were going to get better and better with each step," Hazelwood said. "I was proud of the way the girls responded. They didn't freak out (when the Trojans made a run)."
Race led the Bulldogs with 13 kills, while Newsome added 11. Steinwedell contributed 12 digs and Kayla Woodard had 11. Paris Perret had 31 assists.
With her five blocked assists, Newsome increased her career total to 222 and moved into ninth place on the MSU all-time list. She also added a block solo to tie Temeka Thomas for ninth in school history with 53 in her career.
Newsome hopes having success in the first match carries over throughout the season.
"We want to improve after every single game and build on the previous game whether it's a win or a loss," Newsome said.
MSU wins nightcap against Austin Peay
The Bulldogs completed a successful day by knocking off Austin Peay in straight sets 25-19, 25-22, 25-23.
MSU raced to a 6-1 lead in the first set, but the Lady Governors gave the Bulldogs all they could handle in sets two and three. Austin Peay raced to an 8-3 lead in the second set and the two teams were deadlocked at 22-22 before MSU reeled off three straight points for a 25-22 lead.
The Bulldogs found themselves in a more precarious situation in the third set, trailing the Lady Govs 23-22. Again, the Bulldogs ran off three straight points, two on kills by sophomore Chanelle Baker, to nail down a match-clinching 25-23 win.
“We had great balance on offense tonight --- double figure kills totals from Ashley Newsome (12), Caitlin Rance (11) and Chanelle Baker (10) and nine more from Faith Steinwedell,” Hazelwood said. “Paris followed up a strong performance in the opener with a stronger performance (33 assists) tonight.”
Hazelwood was also pleased with her team’s defensive showing against the Lady Governors. MSU held a 52-45 edge in digs. Kayla Woodard tallied a match-high 15 digs to lead a trio of Bulldogs with double figure digs totals. Steinwedell and Rance each added 11.