The Lady Vols volleyball team took down Mississippi State in three sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-21) at Thompson-Boling arena on Saturday. With this win, the Lady Vols improve to 8-6 on the season.
Morgahn Fingall and Danielle Mahaffey were key in Tennessee’s victory. The two combined for 28 kills and six blocks, while Mahaffey posted an incredible .542 hitting percentage. The two proved too much to handle for Mississippi State and led Tennessee to its fourth set sweep of the season.
"Both of them came through in so many clutch situations.” head coach Eve Rackham-Watt said of the star duo. “They were able to carry us offensively tonight, which is a change from what we have been doing. That’s going to benefit in the long run."
The Lady Vols started uncharacteristically slow in set one. Mississippi State’s All-SEC middle blocker Gabby Waden leapt out of the gate with three kills, catapulting the Bulldogs to a 5-3 lead. It looked as if Tennessee was in for a long night, but the tide turned quickly. An 8-1 Lady Vols run put Tennessee up five and placed the momentum clearly in the hands of the home team. From there, the Lady Vols cruised to a 25-19 set one victory.
Set two was perhaps the most exciting for the Lady Vols. Mahaffey and Fingall stood out, accounting for 11 of the Lady Vols’ 18 early points, giving way to an 18-8 lead. The Bulldogs then went on to show some life at the right time, putting together a 6-0 run and putting the match within reach as their window began to close. Fortunately for Tennessee, the Lady Vols’ high powered offense slammed that window shut, putting together a 7-3 finish behind a couple kills by junior Ava Bell and an unstoppable spike by Knoxville native Lily Felts.
When the dust had settled, Tennessee led the match 2-0. Coach Rackham was most impressed by Morgahn Fingall at the end of this second set.
“She was playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of thought.” Rackham said. “She was very intentional.”
The third set was the toughest for the Lady Vols, but the team was up for a challenge. Waden, Logan Brown, and Jessica Kemp started strong for Mississippi State, totaling five kills to jump to an early 7-3 lead. Unlike the previous two sets, the Bulldogs would hold onto this advantage and even seemed to be in control until the midway point in the third, when Tennessee jumped out to a 19-18 lead. Despite a tough final minutes, the Lady Vols’ defense proved to be too much for the Bulldogs, who eventually fell 25-21. Tennessee’s final points came from two consecutive blocks by Felts and Bell.
“I don’t know if we put any more importance on this match than we did yesterday’s.” Rackham said on the series with Mississippi State. “For this team to accomplish the goals we have set, every match is the most important match for us."
Tennessee now looks ahead to next week’s series against Arkansas, the Lady Vols’ first road challenge of the spring season. The Razorbacks are 11-7 on the year, looking to snap a three game losing streak. The matches are scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday in Fayetteville.