MSU volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood, right, instructs her team during a match this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Coaches usually emphasize to their team that the next game is the biggest one on the schedule.
When it comes to college volleyball in this state, tonight is certainly one of those times.
Mississippi State makes the trip to Oxford to take on Ole Miss in the third Southeastern Conference match and it's big for more than just "the next one" reason.
Even though the Bulldogs and Rebels are rivals and that's motivation enough, both squads are off to an 0-2 start in the SEC and are in need of a conference victory.
Mississippi State coach Jenny Hazelwood understands going into a hostile environment will make it difficult for her team to have success.
"Friday night games are a little bit more crazy and will have all of those things that will be tough," Hazelwood said. "Hopefully these girls will understand that it's the rival and the big game you've got to get up for. We will take this one really seriously and be a little bit better this week."
The series is tied at 10-10 in the last 20 meetings since 2002. Ole Miss has won three of the last four meetings.
The Rebels have an overall record of 6-5, while the Bulldogs stand 4-7.
Ole Miss coach Joe Getzin said what the teams have done to this point of the season really doesn't matter.
"As a rival school, it's an exciting time," Getzin said. "You can throw out the records. In my tenure here, we're .500. It's been a battle back and forth and they always come to play. We have respect for them and be ready for a hard fought match."
Mississippi State has a young team with several underclassmen and Hazelwood said it continues to be a learning experience.
With only two practices before going to Oxford, Hazelwood has tried to put the Bulldogs in as many pressure situations as possible to get them toughened up for the matches ahead.
"We've got to get some things figured out, keep working hard and getting better," Hazelwood said after last Sunday's home loss to Georgia. "At some point, it will click for them and they will figure out what it takes to consistently perform at a level we know they are capable of. Once it happens, we are going to be pretty tough."
Tonight's match, which begins at 7 p.m. inside the Gillom Center, features the SEC's top two players in the digs category.
MSU freshman libero Roxanne McVey leads the league with 240 digs, while Ashley Veach of the Rebels is second with an average of 5.02 digs per set.
Freshman Taylor Scott leads the Bulldogs 125 kills and six service aces.
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