Mississippi Stateâ€™s volleyball team nearly forgot what it felt like to win at home.
The Bulldogs got its first victory since a five-set road win at Georgia on Oct. 3 and are now in a three-way tie in the Southeastern Conference for seventh place.
Prior to Wednesday nightâ€™s four-set victory over Alabama, Mississippi State had gone nearly a month without leaving Newell-Grissom Gymnasium with a smile.
â€śWeâ€™ve had so many close matches so itâ€™s been a matter of doing good things mixed in with not very good thatâ€™s killed us,â€ť Mississippi State head coach Jenny Hazelwood said. â€śI was just proud of how when they got down, they refused to lose.â€ť
The Bulldogs (11-10, 3-7 in Southeastern Conference) were able to mentally put a trio of consecutive straight-set losses behind them thanks to a more productive offensive night for their outside hitters.
MSU connected on nearly 21 percent of its offensive chances, a 4-point difference than they had averaged throughout the 2010 season. Caitlin Ranceâ€™s double-double effort of 17 kills and 12 digs led the Bulldogs effort.
â€śShe has been so steady but I think if we went back and looked itâ€™s almost always the clutch point that sheâ€™s scoring,â€ť Hazelwood said. â€śThe other teams know weâ€™re going to her and she still goes and gets a kill.â€ť
State won a back-and-forth first set against the Crimson Tide (9-11, 1-9) 25-23 after losing the opening frame of every match since defeating South Florida on Sept. 11 in a five-set thriller to open the second day of the Saluki Invitational hosted by Southern Illinois.
â€śI think that set the tone early that this is our house and weâ€™re going to take this match,â€ť Hazelwood said. â€śIt took us to set that standard for ourselves that we have to go out and make it happen.â€ť
Alabamaâ€™s defense continued to neutralize Stateâ€™s middle hitting including senior Ashley Newsome as 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore Leigh Moyer recorded three blocks, six digs and 11 kills through the heart of the Bulldogs defense. The Crimson Tide used that defensive momentum into a 25-23 second-set victory.
State came out of the locker room to dominate the third set to the tune of 25-18 while finishing the performance with a powerful middle kill from Newsome and a pair of Alabama service errors. The Bulldogs only made one hitting error after earning several wide-open hitting opportunities due to better communication after the break.
â€śWe were up in that second set and Alabama eventually only earned 11 or 12 points total,â€ť Hazelwood said. â€śI just told them if we donâ€™t make the errors and give them points, itâ€™s not even close.â€ť
With her team-leading 15 digs during the evening, Mississippi State senior libero Kayla Woodard moved to four short of fourth place in school history behind All-SEC standout Jannifer Shupe, who starred at MSU from 1996-99.
Stateâ€™s power game on the outside showed up late as the Bulldogs rallied from six points down to take a dramatic 27-25 fourth-set victory.
Wednesday night marked the first time that State won a match in less than five sets since MSU defeated UT-Arlington in four sets on Sept. 4 to finish the Maverick Invitational.
The Bulldogs will try for their first winning streak in Starkville since winning the season-opening MSU Maroon Classic in August when an Ole Miss (14-5, 8-2) squad thatâ€™s receiving votes in the latest Coachesâ€™ poll comes in Friday night to open up the campusâ€™ Homecoming festivities.