STARKVILLE, Miss. - Heart and grit are the staples of Bulldog volleyball. On Friday night in front of a raucous crowd of 1,409 at Newell-Grissom, the Mississippi State Bulldogs fought to the end but dropped a 3-0 decision to the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks.
Evie Grace Singleton paced the Bulldogs with 8 kills, while Jelena Vujcin and Chelsea Duhs each turned in 7 on the night. The setting duo of Blossom Sato and Riley Duzenack turned in 14 and 13 assists, respectively, while Bali Leffall-Young paced State with 4 blocks.
"I cannot say enough how proud I am of this team and the fight they showed tonight," MSU head coach David McFatrich said. "We preach heart, soul and grit with Bulldog volleyball and they gave it their all against a very good Kansas team. We wish the result was different, but this is only the first match. We have a long way to go and I'm confident that this team is going to do great things."
The 1,409 fans that packed The Griss on Friday stands as the third-largest crowd in program history and is the highest opening day total at Newell-Grissom since 2011.
"Our fans were amazing and I cannot thank them enough for showing up and being as electric as they were," McFatrich said. "I've always said that The Griss is the best place in America to play collegiate volleyball and that really rings true when our fans pack this place out."
After the Bulldogs grabbed several early leads, Kansas pushed out to as much as a five-point lead in the first set. MSU would not relent, eventually coming back to within one, down 20-19. A pair of kills from Vujcin would keep the Dogs close and bring the Griss crowd to its feet, but Kansas pulled away and survived the first frame, 25-22.
A number of errors plagued State early on, but once again the toughness of Bulldog volleyball shined through. MSU would fight back after being down several early four-point deficits, tying it up at 11-11 and again at 12-12. State would hang tough once again, but could not jump out in front, as the Jayhawks took a two-set lead with a 25-20 victory.
Friday night's third set was a grinding battle early on, but a 7-1 Kansas run put the Jayhawks out in front. The Bulldogs would attempt several runs, but could not complete the comeback and dropped the final set 25-17 to close out the match.
"We seemed to shine across the board tonight, but there are still some areas we have to improve in. Bottom line is we have two matches tomorrow against good squads and that's where our focus is right now. We're excited to get back out there."
State returns tomorrow at noon CT against the Lamar Cardinals, who dropped a straight-sets decision to the Eastern Washington Eagles. MSU will cap off the day with a 7 p.m., showdown against the Eagles. Both matches will be broadcast on SEC Network +.