STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) — Head coach Jenny Hazelwood and the Mississippi State Bulldogs raise the curtains on the 38th season of MSU volleyball this weekend at the Newell-Grissom Building with the 2012 MSU Maroon Classic.
The Bulldogs open the campaign Friday at 7 p.m. against defending SWAC champion and 2011 NCAA participant Jackson State. In Saturday matches, State takes on ULM at 12:30 p.m. and first-time opponent Kennesaw State at 7 p.m. There is no charge for parking and admission to MSU volleyball matches at the Newell-Grissom Building.
“We’re excited about opening the season this weekend,” said Hazelwood, beginning her fourth season leading the MSU volleyball program. “There has been a great deal of energy and enthusiasm during our preseason practices, and you can sense the excitement about the start of the new season. We’ll be facing three teams that are well-coached and motivated to play well against a BCS school. But our girls are well-prepared and eager to showcase this year’s team at home on opening weekend.”
Senior rightside hitter Chanelle Baker of Carrollton, Texas, and junior setter Paris Perret Frisco, Texas, have been elected team captains for a youthful 13-player MSU squad that includes six freshmen and four sophomores.
“This is the most athletic team I’ve coached at Mississippi State, and they’ll be fun to watch,” said Hazelwood. “Our goal is to play consistently and at a high level. In the past we’ve had our highs and lows, but I see signs that a trademark of this team will be its steady play.”
Baker, Perret and middle blocker Lainey Wyman are the three returning starters from last year’s edition that posted a 12-17 overall mark. With a 7-13 conference record in 2011, State tied for its second-most league wins in a season and its best overall SEC finish since 1984. The Bulldogs enter the season without any health issues, though Wyman, an SEC All-Freshman selection in 2011, is expected to miss some early-season competition for disciplinary reasons.
A host of opening-weekend promotions are on tap for the Maroon Classic at the Newell-Grissom Building.
The first 300 MSU students in attendance will receive Title IX t-shirts, and popular MSU political science professor Whit Waide will serve as guest bench coach for the MSU-Jackson State match. Waide will also emcee the “Volleygrind 2012 Coaches Challenge”, a volleyball mini-match featuring the head coaches of MSU’s other athletic teams during Friday night’s in-match promotional break. Daryl Greenan, Dan Mullen, Per Nilsson, Rick Ray, and Vann Steudeman will put their Team Maroon volleyball skills up against Team White’s John Cohen, Steve Dudley, Clay Homan, Vic Shaefer and MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin. An MSU student will be chosen to complete the lineups for each team.
MSU students can add to their Bulldog Coalition point total at the Maroon Classic and register for an in-season drawing for a sideline pass for the MSU-Arkansas football game. Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. match will also include a Hardee’s hamburger giveaway.
In addition to six program newcomers, the weekend tournament also marks the campus debut of MSU assistant coach Taylor Evans, who joined the MSU coaching staff in March, and a new facility lighting system that has more than tripled the on-court illumination at the Newell-Grissom Building.
The Bulldogs hit the road for non-conference tournament play in Los Angeles, Calif. (Aug. 31-Sept. 1) and New Orleans (Sept. 7-8) before returning to campus to launch their 20-match Southeastern Conference schedule Sept. 14-16 against Auburn and Georgia.