Rance leads Bulldogs volleyball win
MSU's Caitlin Rance (17) goes up for a kill attempt against Alabama on Sunday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The seniors and graduating juniors were recognized prior to Sunday's final volleyball game of the season for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
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If there was one specific thing that senior outside hitter Caitlin Rance wanted more than anything else, it was to go out a winner.
With a 23-kill, 13-dig performance, Rance helped make that happen as the Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-17, 26-24) at the Newell Grissom Building.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Rance said. "I definitely wanted to come out with a win. It was a little rough at times, but we did (win) and I'm proud of everybody on the team."
Fellow senior Hannah Wilkinson and graduating juniors Hillary Parker and Faith Steinwedell also played their final match at MSU.
Rance, who recorded her 11th double-double of the season for the Bulldogs and 26th of her career, finished the season with 443 kills which is the third-best single-season mark in school history, while her 1,138 career kills are seventh all-time.
"She's been so amazing and I can not say enough about all the things Rance has done for this program," MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood said.
The Bulldogs have now swept Alabama and Auburn in a two-match series during a season for the first time and it was MSU's third-straight home victory against the Tide.
When Alabama tied the match at 1-1, there were some tense moments, but Hazelwood had confidence her team would come out with a victory.
After losing a 3-0 decision to Ole Miss on Friday, Hazelwood was happy to see the Bulldogs find a way to bounce back.
"On Friday, we struggled from a mental standpoint," Hazelwood said. "It was a little up and down at times (on Sunday), but overall we definitely had the mental focus that we needed to pull this one out."
There were two other double-doubles by MSU with Faith Steinwedell's eighth of her career (14 kills, 14 digs) and Paris Perret's 14th of her career (49 assists, 13 digs).
The Bulldogs improved their final records to 12-17 overall and 7-13 in the SEC.
Hazelwood believes it's something to build upon.
"What I told them in the locker room is when they are watching this program win, win a lot and compete for championship, you guys helped get that started in helping make that happen," Hazelwood said. "There were a lot of firsts this year. From first win over ranked opponent to first sweep of a (SEC) road series when we beat Alabama and Ole Miss on the road and first time we had multiple attendance records so that's exactly how you build a great program. Firsts are going to happen at some point and we got a lot of them this year. We're going to continue to do that and build on that."
Rance said beating a ranked team in Kentucky, getting 1,000 career kills and her association of teammates will be the things she remembers most about her time at MSU.
Her future plans are to continue with the program as a student assistant coach so she will continue to be a part of the growing process.
"Something we're going to work on is playing consistently and not have to fight back at the end," Rance said.