STARKVILLE – Ashley Newsome and Faith Steinwedell combined for 35 kills and 10 blocks Sunday to lead Mississippi State to a 3-1 SEC volleyball win (25-21, 19-25, 25-22, 25-21) over Ole Miss and a sweep of the Bulldogs’ two-match season series with the Rebels. The win, coupled with Friday’s 3-1 win over Arkansas, gave MSU (8-21, 4-14 SEC) its first sweep of SEC weekend competition since the 2007 campaign.
Newsome, a junior middle blocker from Florence, Ala., capped a career-best weekend with the Bulldogs, piled up a match-leading 20 kills on a .455 hitting day and delivered five blocks, two of them solo stops that raised her SEC-leading solo blocks total to 23. Steinwedell, a sophomore outside hitter from La Jolla, Calif., also sizzled on offense, hitting at a .455 clip with a career-best 15 kills and five blocks.
“This is a sweet way to finish off a great weekend,” said first-year Bulldog volleyball head coach Jenny Hazelwood. “Our kids have worked hard to get better each week this season, and we’ve had our ups and downs and different times. But this weekend we were able to put everything together and play complete matches. I’m proud of the way we set the tone for the match today and proud of the way we bounced back after Ole Miss won that second set. Statistically, it was a very close match, and today it came down to playing well on the home court.”
“Ashley had another impressive performance this afternoon,” she continued. “I’ve said it before, but she is capable of taking over a match. And we saw some other outstanding career-best performances today. Faith’s 15 kills was a career-high, and Dorey Gray did an excellent job of directing our offense. She set a personal-best with 49 assists. Kayla (Woodard) was outstanding on defense and finished with a career-high 34 digs.”
The Bulldogs hit at a .368 clip and never trailed in taking the opening set 25-21. Newsome delivered five kills and Steinwedell added four to counter an impressive six-kill showing by UM’s Regina Thomas. Ioana Demian broke a 6-6 deadlock with her initial kill of the match and the Bulldogs twice built leads out to five points before Newsome delivered the game-winning 25th point in the opening set.
The Bulldogs cooled off in the second set, hitting at a match-low .152. State’s Catlin Rance, who finished with nine kills, put down a kill that gave the Bulldogs a 6-5 advantage in the early going. But UM went on an 8-2 run and ended the set with a 4-0 run. UM veteran Caitlin Weiss had five kills in the set.
State returned from the break and sprinted to a 4-1 advantage in the third set. Miranda Kitts and Marielle Oestermeyer chipped in four kills each as Ole Miss stayed close despite a match-high eight attack errors. The stanza featured seven ties, the last at 21-21 before the Bulldogs rang up four of the set’s final five points. Freshman Chanelle Baker’s lone kill of the set gave the Bulldogs a 25-22 decision.
Both teams recorded their best attack percentages of the match in the fourth set, with the Bulldogs hitting at a .429 clip. Again, it was Ashley Newsome that took control, delivered kills on seven of her nine swings as State led from start to finish. The first of five Steinwedell kills in the set launched a 4-1 MSU surge to open the stanza. Despite an eight-kill showing by Weiss, State built its lead out to five at 10-5 and led by as many as six at 18-12 before Newsome ended the match with her 20th kill, second-most in her MSU career.
Newsome totaled 33 kills and 14 blocks in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 weekend wins over SEC West rivals Arkansas and Ole Miss and now leads the Bulldogs with 306 kills and 111 blocks.
Gray registered her fifth double-double of the year, backing her career-best 49 assists with 11 digs. Libero Kayla Woodard, who began the day fourth in the SEC in digs, tallied 34 against the Rebels, seven better than her previous career best.
Weiss paced UM with 15 kills, while Regina Thomas tallied 13 and Miranda Kitts 10. Whitney Craven and Morgan Springer paced the Rebel defense with 19 digs and 17 digs respectively.
Sunday’s match drew 382 fans to the Newell-Grissom Building, the sixth top 10 attendance registered this season at the home of the Volleyball Bulldogs.
“It was a great atmosphere today,” said Hazelwood. “The students that came out helped make a huge difference in the match. It was a great home-court atmosphere and after the match we thanked them for helping create it.”
State travels to Baton Rouge, La., Friday and closes out its 2009 road schedule with a 7 p.m. match at Nov. 20 and SEC West-leading LSU. A week later the Bulldogs wrap up the season hosting Alabama Nov. 27 in a 7 p.m. match.
Miss. State Media Relations