Bulldogs 'refuse to lose,' beat Tigers in volleyball
It's written on the wall in the locker room.
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The Mississippi State Bulldogs are focused on the motto "refuse to lose" during this volleyball season.
Even though Mississippi State hasn't won every match this year, there have been some exciting wins since the Southeastern Conference schedule began.
The Bulldogs won their third Sunday five-set match in the league with a 3-2 decision against the Auburn Tigers at the Newell-Grissom Building.
"They want to be a part of being fighters," MSU coach Jenny Hazelwood said. "They made up their mind that if that's what we want to be about, then that's what we've got to do and they've shown that a number of times this season. It's something we hope to see out of them on a consistent basis."
The Bulldogs improved to 9-8 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.
It didn't look like MSU was going to be in a position to get its ninth win after being down 2-1 in sets and trailed Auburn 14-9 in the fourth set.
However, the Bulldogs won the fourth set 25-20 to force a fifth and took that one as well 15-11.
"I told them in the locker room that I'm really proud of the fact you didn't give up," Hazelwood said. "In that fourth set when we were down, it could have been like Friday night. (Sunday) we didn't play that well at times, but they refused to lose, had to battle back and take it. They had to earn their points because Auburn is a great team and play really strong defense."
MSU won the first set 25-22, then dropped the next two frames 25-23 and 25-18 before starting the rally.
Senior outside hitter Caitlin Rance, who registered a career-high 26 kills for the Bulldogs, had a good feeling about the match after getting it to a fifth set.
"We've been playing up and down lately so that's why we've been going to five-set matches, but we come through so that's good," Rance said. "We've struggled in finishing games so these five-set matches have given us the confidence to know we can finish them."
Hazelwood said Rance continues to deliver time after time. Rance has 46 kills in the last two matches.
"She's been so strong all season long," Hazelwood said. "After getting 20 Friday night, you know Auburn was keying on her coming in and they couldn't stop her.
"She was a key down the stretch and she's always had that refuse-to-lose attitude. She took a little extra on her shoulders today and was going to make sure we pulled this out. She was awesome."
Rance moved into 10th place on MSU's all-time list with 975 kills.
Personal achievements are important to Rance if it means the Bulldogs are winning matches.
"I know that I have to do it for us to be successful," Rance said.
Senior Hillary Parker had 27 digs, while junior Faith Steinwedell had her second double-double of the season with 14 digs and 13 kills. Rance had 14 digs and freshman Lainey Wyman added 14 kills.
The Bulldogs continue a four-match homestand by taking on Kentucky Friday. The match will have a special venue as the action moves to Humphrey Coliseum as part of MSU's Maroon Madness.