Mississippi State volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood couldn't help but think of what might have been if only her team had entered Sunday's match against the 18th-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers with a little more focus, commitment and execution.
The Bulldogs held one of the strongest hitting teams in the Southeastern Conference to a .198 percentage, but only hit .025 themselves in dropping a 3-0 decision at the Newell-Grissom Building.
Even though Mississippi State has come a long way since August, Hazelwood said the squad is still working through "the inconsistencies" that are keeping it from reaching its potential.
"Anytime we can get one of the top offensive teams in our conference to hit .198, going into this match, I would have said that's a pretty good thing," Hazelwood said. "We just didn't get it done and there were things in the scouting report we told them to look for and we just failed to see that through."
The Bulldogs saw their records fall to 10-9 overall and 5-5 in the SEC.
After dropping the first set 25-19, Mississippi State saw Tennessee win seven of the last nine points coming out of a timeout in the second set to win 25-18.
The Bulldogs took the lead six times in the final set and were much more competitive before the Lady Vols earned a 28-26 victory.
"We'll take this 3-0 win and run with it because I didn't want it to go four sets or five," said Tennessee coach Rob Patrick, who is now 22-1 against MSU. "I'm excited about the way we closed out the match.
"I thought Mississippi State played a really good match. They are a team that normally doesn't make very many errors. I told my team that if we are going to score points, we're going to have to score them because they are not going to give us that many points and I think what happened was we played at a very high level on our side. I was very pleased with how we played, especially defensively."
Kelsey Robinson, who won national player of the week honors last week, had a double-double with 13 kills and 12 digs for the Lady Vols.
Hillary Parker led the Bulldogs with 19 digs, while Hannah Wilkinson, Lainey Wyman and Caitlin Rance had seven kills each.
Mississippi State hits the road Friday with a match at South Carolina, a team it beat at home 3-2 on Sept. 18.
"We're sitting in a good place and we've got some of the tougher teams coming here," Hazelwood said. "We've got a good stretch coming up that if we can build on the good things from this weekend that can really help us in SEC play."