September 1, 2013 12:13:30 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood expected to some early season adversity with a young roster.
Hazelwood found that adversity Saturday at Newell-Grissom Building, as MSU dropped a pair of four-set decisions to the University of Arkansas, Little Rock and Southeast Missouri State University.
"This was a new thing for us playing four matches in two days, so I was looking forward to see how we would respond," Hazelwood said. "When you get tired, how do you press on? We had more blocks and digs in both matches today. We just simply gave away too many points."
UALR won early in the day 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 and 25-17. SEMO won the tournament's nightcap, 25-22, 26-24, 22-25, 25-21. MSU (2-2) beat both of schools in Friday's opening round.
"I think we got a little complacent after two big wins," MSU freshman Kimmy Gardiner said. "When we put it all together, we will be unstoppable. We have some really great off the court chemistry. It is just a matter of making sure we carry that to the court at all times."
Sophomore Taylor Scott had two double-doubles in the tournament. A year ago, Scott led the Southeastern Conference freshmen in double-doubles.
"On a young team, it is my job to step up and do even more," Scott said. "I think we learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. There was a stretch in each match today where we got a little frazzled and couldn't get it back together. We have to learn from that type of experience."
Against SEMO, Scott had a team-high 19 kills and 15 digs. Roxanne McVey had 29 digs. Gardiner added 15 kills and 21 digs. Still, the Bulldogs could never find the type of rhythm that led to back-to-back 3-0 victories on Friday.
"I am glad we played the same opponents both days," Hazelwood said. "It gave the players a look at how matches can be different from day to day even when you play the same opponents. We did a lot of things well but simply gave away points.
"I thought both UALR and SEMO made adjustments today and we didn't really respond to that. What this team learned is that we have some talented players. The challenge is putting it all together consistently. We were a little tired playing four matches in two days. We will learn from that experience."
MSU will play four non-conference tournaments before settling into Southeastern Conference play. For a large stretch Saturday, MSU's rotation included four sophomores and two freshmen.
"As a sophomore, I have to be one of the leaders," Scott said. "We know the teams we played this weekend will not be the caliber of teams we play in the SEC. So, we need to do some growing up over the next three tournaments. I think we will get there. The girls on this team will learn how to win."
MSU will play next weekend in the Baylor Classic before coming home for Bulldog Invitational. In the Maroon Classic, Gardiner and McVey were chosen to the all-tournament team. SEMO's Emily Coon was named the tournament's most valuable player.
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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