The No. 24 Mississippi State volleyball team is headed to Seattle for the first and second rounds of the 2021 NCAA tournament after it was announced the Bulldogs received an at-large bid during Sunday’s selection show.
This will mark Mississippi State’s first NCAA tournament appearance after the Bulldogs put together a record-breaking season, finishing 25-5 overall and 16-2 in the SEC.
Mississippi State will open play against Hawai’i on Friday, Dec. 3 at Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. The host Huskies, the No. 15 overall seed, will face Ivy League champion Brown in the second match Friday.
Thirty-two conferences were awarded automatic qualification, and the remaining 32 slots were filled with at-large selections. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. Louisville earned the top seed followed by No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 4 Wisconsin.
The tournament bid comes on the same day Julie Darty Dennis was named the 2021 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, the first Mississippi State volleyball coach to win the award.
Additionally, Gabby Waden has been named to the All-SEC Team for the second straight season, making her just the second back-to-back all-conference selection for the Bulldogs and the first since Christine Owen was named All-SEC in 1997-98.
The All-SEC Team, which consists of 18 student-athletes along with the seven-member All-Freshman squad, were chosen by the league’s head coaches.
Mississippi State’s 25 wins and 16 SEC wins broke school records, and the final No. 24 ranking in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll was a first for the program. State ended the regular season on a high note, winning 13 straight matches, all against SEC opponents, and the streak is the sixth-longest active streak in the country.
Waden earned a spot on the All-SEC Team after leading the Bulldogs in almost every offensive category this season. The senior tallied a team-best 409 kills and averaged 3.41 kills per set with a .326 attacking percentage. She currently ranks in the top 10 in school history in career kills and attack percentage, while she has also led the Bulldogs in kills over the past three seasons. Waden totaled 96 blocks and ranked second on the team with an average of 0.80 blocks per set. Overall, she accounted for 459 points and 3.83 points per set. Waden has registered 1,097 kills over the course of her MSU career, making her the 11th player in program history to surpass 1,000 career kills.
Lee, Young, Montgomery to join Polk Ring of Honor
The fourth class of the Ron Polk Ring of Honor will see their plaques unveiled this spring when the trio of Richard Lee, Pete Young and Frank Montgomery are enshrined as the 2022 class.
The 2022 class will be celebrated during Mississippi State’s series against Florida, with the induction ceremony to be held Saturday, May 7.
The Ring of Honor is named after iconic head coach Ron Polk, who served as the head coach at Mississippi State from 1976-97 and again from 2002-08. Polk was a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, two-time national Coach of the Year honoree and a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association, Mississippi Sports and College Baseball halls of fame who compiled a 1,139-590 record with the Bulldogs with six trips to the College World Series.
Lee, who played from 1995 to 1998, was one of the best power hitters in MSU history. Lee earned Freshman All-America accolades in 1995 and was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American. He was an All-SEC first baseman in 1998 and a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Lee, part of the first back-to-back College World Series appearances in MSU history, finished his career at MSU as the program’s leader in runs batted in (265) and total bases (544). He ranked in the top 10 in runs (sixth, 219), hits (third, 328), doubles (third, 66) and home runs (seventh, 46) at the end of his MSU career.
Lee led the Bulldgs in hits, batting average, home runs and RBIs in 1997 to be named team MVP. As a senior in 1998, he totaled team highs of 19 home runs and 85 RBIs. He was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft.
Young, one of the most complete players in MSU history, played from 1987 to 1989.
Perhaps one of the most complete players in MSU history, Young was an elite defensive third basemen and relief pitcher for the Bulldogs. He was a two-time All-American (1988-89), a Freshman All-American (1987) and a two-time all-region. Young was a back-to-back All-SEC selection in 1988 and 1989, while he was part of the 1987 and 1989 MSU teams that captured SEC championships. Young helped guide State to three straight NCAA Regional appearances.
The two-way player ranked first in MSU history for single-season and career doubles as well as saves at the conclusion of his Bulldog career, and he remains fourth in career doubles with 56. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1988 and followed up by leading the MSU pitching staff with a 1.22 ERA in 25 appearances in 1989. Young was a sixth-round pick in the 1989 Major League Baseball Draft by the Montreal Expos.
Montgomery was a dominant left-hander who became the first player in school history with a minimum of 10 decisions to go undefeated in a season with a 10-0 record in 1962. He was an All-American that season, leading the SEC in wins, earned-run average and strikeouts.
Montgomery was a dominant lefty who became the first pitcher in MSU history with a minimum of 10 decisions to go undefeated in a season with a perfect 10-0 record in 1962. He earned All-SEC and All-SEC Western Division honors on his way to becoming an All-American in 1962.
Montgomery won 16 career games on the mound for the Bulldogs, while he was also the SEC leader in wins, earned run average (0.68) and strikeouts (102) in 92 innings in 1962. Montgomery amassed 190 strikeouts in 158 innings during his final two seasons with the Bulldogs, and he was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.