STARKVILLE — Mississippi State volleyball had just taken a timeout up 13-12 over Georgia in the fourth set of Wednesday night’s match, MSU’s Southeastern Conference opener.
After being down 11-7 earlier on, Georgia went on a 5-2 run to cut the lead to just one as momentum looked to swing in its favor.
MSU had a 2-1 set lead at that point in the match, and a set loss would take it to a crucial fifth-set tiebreaker.
However, Lauren Myrick had other ideas, rattling off two straight kills right after the timeout as Mississippi State went on a 7-0 run out of the break and ended the set and match on a 12-3 run, starting out SEC play with a four-set victory over Georgia.
Set scores were 25-14, 20-25, 25-15 and 25-15.
“I think serve-receive was what got us back in the game in that set,” Myrick said. “We struggled a little bit in the beginning, but once it evened out, it started going our way.”
Everything went MSU’s way in the first set, coming out of the gates hitting a blistering .667 with 19 kills and just one attack error.
Myrick alone had seven kills in the set, including four in a five-point swing as Mississippi State stretched the lead to 14-6 early on.
It was an impressive hitting display overall for the program, finishing the night hitting .388 as a team and a staggering .482 in the three sets it won.
“The theme for today was figuring out who we are and I think it was a great opportunity to start SEC play with figuring out that identity and setting the tone on our home court,” head coach Julie Darty Dennis said. “I was really proud about our first contact. I thought it was great. Just overall, they seemed confident, they seemed loose, they were having fun.”
That last momentum swing at the end of the fourth set couldn’t have come at a better time for this team.
MSU looked gassed and needed a quick breather, a quick pick-me-up, before getting back onto the court, and that was really all it needed to secure the victory.
“They needed a chance to remember, ‘This is our chance to close it out,’” Darty Dennis said. “’We don’t want to go five. We want to close it out in four at home so we can focus on our next opponent.’”
Not only was it the start of SEC play, but it was a return home for the Bulldogs after a tough road trip in Michigan where the team dropped both matches against Bowling Green and Michigan.
Having lost three of four matches coming into Wednesday, it was as much of a statement match for the rest of the season as it was a statement match to begin the conference schedule.
Like last season, the Bulldogs lost three matches in nonconference play, but unlike last season’s SEC opener against Florida, a five-set loss, things got off on the right foot in 2022.
“I think we’ve talked a lot about just putting that behind us and starting 0-0 with our SEC schedule,” Myrick said. “A fresh start, just kind of getting that leg up at the beginning.”
This team played with a fire under itself Wednesday and produced an important win at the crossroads of the nonconference and conference schedules.
Mississippi State looks to build upon and grow this winning streak next week as the team travels to play Auburn, a team the Bulldogs haven’t played since 2019, when MSU defeated the Tigers in four-set and three-set victories, respectively.
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