COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Prior to this week, Mississippi State volleyball had never won a set on Texas A&M's home court. After a two-match series, the Bulldogs are headed back to Starkville with a pair of victories over a ranked opponent.
Mississippi State (2-4, 2-4 SEC) pulled off a five-set victory Thursday night (Nov. 5) to knock off the No. 7 Aggies (4-2, 4-2 SEC) for the second straight evening at Reed Arena in Bryan-College Station, Texas. With the series sweep, the Bulldogs captured consecutive SEC wins for the first time since 2016.
Junior Gabby Waden was phenomenal between the two matches. After tallying 20 kills in the series opener, Waden then tied her career-high 24 kills on Thursday. MSU's right side hitter averaged a .344 hitting percentage between the two contests.
"We played hard tonight, and it paid off big time," MSU volleyball coach Julie Darty Dennis said. "I am so proud of this team. We battled, we fought and we came out on top. The composure and response after the first set was incredible. I am just so happy for my girls.
"We're still anchored by Waden, and she had an even more phenomenal night tonight."
Mississippi State had to come back from being down 1-0 and 2-1 before finishing off the comeback in the fifth set. In the final set, Texas A&M won the first three points before MSU rallied once again to upset the Aggies for a second straight evening.
"Our mental approach of staying in control of our side was how we remained focused, and we did a great job of responding and getting back to the game plan to win that second set," Darty Dennis said. "Offensively, we are moving the ball around.
"This team is fun. We are learning, growing and getting into our groove. Texas A&M is a fantastic team and we had to fight for every point against them, but we persevered."
The Bulldogs had another strong night defensively, holding the Aggies to a .191 hitting percentage. Four Bulldogs boasted double-digit digs, with Callie Minshew's 18 leading the group.
Setter Margaret Dean collected a double-double for the second straight night, combining 29 assists with 11 digs. The graduate transfer now has a team-best four double-doubles through six matches this fall.
Texas A&M's Treyaunna Rush was an offensive powerhouse for the Aggies on Thursday, tallying 14 kills and a .455 hitting percentage. Defensively, Karly Basham and Taylor Voss each had 21 digs to lead all players. A&M was also strong at the net, picking up 12 total team blocks.
First Set (Texas A&M 25, Mississippi State 14)
Two separate 6-0 runs fueled Texas A&M's opening frame victory. After an Aggie attack error gave State an early 5-3 lead, A&M's Molly Talbert came back with a kill to start the first long run. MSU was its own worst enemy, combining five errors after Talbert's kill, and the Aggies took a 9-5 advantage. State pulled within two, but Texas A&M pulled away again via three kills and two MSU errors and a service ace to go up 18-10. The Aggies pulled away from there for a commanding first frame win.
Second Set (Mississippi State 25, Texas A&M 21)
The two teams played a close battle in set two as neither team had a run lasting longer than four points. After trading blows early in the frame, an attack error by Texas A&M's Camryn Ennis gave State a 13-12 lead. The Bulldogs would not trail again. Up 21-20, State put together three straight off of a pair of Aggie errors, and a Callie Minshew ace set up set point. Lauren Myrick then finished the frame with a kill.
Third Set (Texas A&M 25, Mississippi State 18)
A service ace from Lilly Gunter gave State an early 3-1 advantage, but it ended up being State's lone lead in the frame. Texas A&M earned nine of the next 11 points to take a 10-5 advantage. The Bulldogs looked to be making a run out of the media timeout, closing the gap to 15-13 with the help of back-to-back service aces from Katie Culumovic, but A&M's Treyaunna Rush ended the Bulldog run with a kill. State couldn't build another run after that, and the Aggies finished with a seven-point advantage.
Fourth Set (Mississippi State 25, Texas A&M 22)
Consecutive kills from Gabby Waden catalyzed another MSU comeback. With the match tied 12-12 after back and forth play in the early going, Waden fired home two points for State. The Aggies compounded the points with back-to-back errors to put State up 16-12, and the Bulldogs held off Texas A&M to force a fifth set.
Fifth Set (Mississippi State 15, Texas A&M 13)
Down 5-2 in the final set, MSU fought back once again. After a service ace by A&M's Karly Basham gave the Aggies an 8-6 lead, State won four of the next five points off of Aggie attack errors. Francesca McBride followed that up with a kill to push State's advantage to 11-9. Kills from Waden and Jessica Kemp set up set point at 14-12 and forced an Aggie timeout. Then, A&M's Morgan Davis came out with a kill to get the Aggies within one. Following an MSU timeout, the Bulldogs executed the side out by feeding Waden, who tooled the Aggie block for kill No. 24 and the MSU victory.
Mississippi State faces another highly ranked program when it hosts No. 2 Kentucky for two matches at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Mississippi, next Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 12-13). Both matches of MSU's final series of the fall will be nationally televised on SEC Network.