Athens, GA - The University of Georgia volleyball team returns to action this weekend with Southeastern Conference road contests at Mississippi State and Alabama.
Georgia (13-16, 4-13 SEC) will be returning to the court after having a bye from league play this past Sunday. UGA's first match this weekend will come against Mississippi State (11-17, 3-14 SEC) on Friday at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss. Opening serve in the battle between the SEC's Bulldog mascot schools is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Georgia then travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Sunday to play the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-17, 2-15 SEC) in the CAVE. First serve for the UGA-UA match is slated for 2 p.m. and the contest will air live on CSS.
In the all-time series with Mississippi State, UGA leads 35-10, but MSU came away victorious in Athens earlier this season in a five-set match. Georgia took the first and third sets, 27-25 and 25-17, while Mississippi State won the second and fourth sets, 32-30 and 25-20, to send the match to a fifth set, which went to MSU 15-11. While Georgia recorded more kills in the match at 77-66, Mississippi State led in hitting percentage at .327-.273 while also picking up a key edge in blocking at 16.0-5.0. Leading MSU in the contest was Ashley Newsome with a match-best 26 kills to go along with seven blocks. Kayla Woodard finished with a match-best 31 digs, and the blocking effort was also supported by seven stops from Hannah Wilkinson.
Georgia's top performances in the first contest with MSU came from redshirt freshman outside hitter Kathleen Luft, senior middle hitter Valentina Gonzalez and junior setter Kathleen Gates. Luft recorded the first double-double of her career with a career-best and team-leading 19 kills to go along with a career-best 13 digs, which tied fellow freshman Allison Summers for the team lead in the match. Gonzalez finished with 18 kills on a season-best .667 clip. Gates finished with her fourth-straight double-double with career-high 63 assists to go along with 10 digs. Gates, who leads the team with seven double-doubles fell just shy of a triple-double having also recorded eight kills on a season-best .538 clip.
In the all-time UGA-UA series, the Bulldogs lead 20-18 including victories in the last two meetings with the Crimson Tide. In this year's first meeting in Athens, UGA won by 3-1 score. Georgia won the first set 25-18 while Alabama evened the match by taking the second set 25-22, but the Bulldogs then held on for a 27-25 victory in the third set before earning the win with a 25-17 fourth set.
In that match, Gonzalez recorded a career-high 12 blocks with one solo stop and 11 assisted blocks to surpass her previous career-high block total of nine, which she had achieved on four previous occasions. It marked the first time a Bulldog has recorded 12 blocks in a match since Oct. 26, 1997, when Kathy Vis had 12 against Arkansas. Behind Gonzalez, Georgia out-blocked Alabama, 16.5 to 8.0, in what proved to be the key difference in the match as the two teams posted similar numbers in other areas of the contest. The Bulldogs recorded 53 kills on a .183 hitting percentage with 63 digs while the Crimson Tide had 48 kills on a .151 hitting percentage with 65 digs. UGA did hold an advantage on serve as well with eight aces compared to Alabama's two.
Sunday's match at Alabama will mark Georgia's fifth appearance on television this season and second on CSS. Live stats will also be available for both contests. For the UGA-MSU match log onto www.mstateatheltics.com, and for the UGA-UA match log onto www.rolltide.com.
This weekend's road trip will be the final road trip of the 2010 regular season for the Bulldogs, who will return home to the Ramsey Student Center to play Auburn in the season finale on Wednesday, Nov. 24.