STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Tennessee Volunteers rallied from the brink of defeat to drive past Mississippi State 3-2 (17-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16) on Sunday at the Newell-Grissom Building.
Weathering uneven play for much of the first three sets, the Vols (19-5, 5-5 SEC) came back from two sets to none and eight points down in the third set, crossing into the second half of their SEC schedule with their third five-set win of the season.
Senior setter Lexi Dempsey (37 assists, 10 digs) and sophomore right side hitter Kanisha Jimenez (12 kills, 10 digs) both recorded double-doubles for Tennessee. Junior libero Bridgette Villano had 25 digs to lead the UT passers.
Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7), paced by Evie Grace Singleton's 17 kills and 14 digs, dropped to 1-1 in five set matches this year.
Tennessee returns home for two matches next weekend at Thompson-Boling Arena, hosting LSU on Friday at 7 p.m. and Texas A&M on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Trailing by as many as eight points early in the third set, Tennessee swung the momentum late. From 23-20 down, Tennessee reeled off four consecutive points to take the lead and produce its first set point of the match at 24-23 on a dunk in by Kelsey Bawcombe.
Mississippi State saved the first set point but not the second. MSU's Chelsea Duhs sailed a ball above the block and long and the Vols took the set 26-24.
The Vols maintained their level in the final two sets, rolling away with the fourth set 25-16 to force a deciding set for the second time in three matches. Tennessee jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the fifth set and never looked back. A pair of Mississippi State errors ended the match at 15-7.
Evie Grace Singleton was the difference-maker for Mississippi at the outset. On Singleton's serve, MSU went on a 5-0 run to open up the set with a nine-point lead at 21-13. She had five kills and five aces in the first set to lead the Bulldogs to a 25-17 win in the set. Tennessee hit just .037 in the first set with seven kills.
Mississippi State took a two-set lead on a second set that came down to the wire. The Vols took a 23-21 lead on a couple errors by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs responded by winning the last four points of the set. An ace set up match point and a block off an attack by Jimenez delivered the set, 25-23.
After winning the comeback third set, the Vols kept the pressure up to start the fourth set, opening up to a 10-4 lead and pulling away from there. The Vols closed out the set on a 3-0 run to send the match into a deciding fifth set. The Vols hit .325 in the set while MSU were held to just .100.
Though Mississippi State registered 59 kills, the team also committed 35 errors. The Vols had 50 kills but just 19 errors, hitting .212 as a squad.