STARKVILLE — Mississippi State volleyball started the final half of its fall with a statement.
After going down 1-0 in Reed Arena, the Bulldogs (1-4, 1-4 SEC) bounced back with three-straight set victories to topple No. 7 Texas A&M (4-1, 4-1 SEC) in four frames. State's first win of the 2020 season was also its first victory against the Aggies in the 13-match series history and MSU's first win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 25 Kentucky on October 14, 2011.
"I am so proud of this team for a gutsy win in Bryan-College Station," MSU volleyball coach Julie Darty Dennis said. "We have been working on a lot of little things that really added up to some big things tonight."
The Bulldog defense was outstanding, besting the Aggies in digs (58-52), total team blocks (10-5) and hitting percentage (.226-.150). Callie Minshew (15 digs), Lilly Gunter (13) and Margaret Dean (13) all had double-digit digs efforts. Jessica Kemp led all players with six blocks.
Offensively, junior Gabby Waden was the difference. MSU's right side hitter tallied a season-high 20 kills, her third 20-kill performance in her career. Waden was also extremely efficient, notching a .412 hitting percentage. The Columbia, S.C., native is averaging 3.59 kills per set on a .345 average this season.
"Knowing they were No. 7 in the country, I had something to prove," Waden said. "I made everything I did count. I knew my team was depending on me, so I took the pressure as a privilege to work hard and execute."
Bulldog setter Margaret Dean collected her third double-double of the season on 25 assists and 13 digs. The graduate transfer also tallied a career-high four service aces, which all came during an 8-0 run to open the third set.
For the Aggies, setter Camille Conner tallied 41 assists and 10 digs to complete a double-double. The Bulldogs held the Aggie attackers to a .150 hitting percentage. Coming into the match, the Aggies boasted a .252 mark, the fourth-best in the SEC.
First Set (Texas A&M 25, Mississippi State 21)
Mississippi State was the first team to earn a two-point advantage in the set, coming out of the media timeout with a 15-14 lead. Robinson blocked a Camille Conner attempt to give State a 16-14 lead. Texas A&M scored five of the next six points, however, and did not give up the lead.
Robinson had three blocks in the opening set, including two solo blocks to move her into a tie for ninth on MSU's career solo block leaderboard with Lynn Ammeson (1983-84; 55).
Second Set (Mississippi State 25, Texas A&M 21)
After the Aggies won the opening point, MSU went on a 4-0 run finished by Jessica Kemp's second kill of the night. Texas A&M recovered however, and the two teams battled until the Aggies took a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. A Robinson kill and Minshew ace got State back square at 15-15, but Texas A&M won the next four points to build a lead to 19-15.
That didn't spell the end for State, however. The Bulldogs battled to close the gap, then finished the frame on a 6-0 run to tie the match at one set apiece. Gabby Waden was part of four of the final five points, with three kills and a block assist. Callie Minshew capped the set with a kill of her own.
Waden tallied six kills in the second set on a .556 mark.
Third Set (Mississippi State 25, Texas A&M 17)
Margaret Dean landed four service aces, including three straight, as State opened on an 8-0 run and the Bulldog setter beat her career-high within as many points. The Aggies pulled within two on a Ciara Hecht kill that made it 13-11, but State regained its composure, scoring seven of the next eight to regain the eight-point lead. The Bulldogs won the frame by eight, 25-17, its first lead by sets in 12 matches all-time against Texas A&M.
Fourth Set (Mississippi State 25, Texas A&M 23)
Texas A&M led for a large portion of the fourth frame, but MSU battled back once again. After going down 15-10, State steadily trimmed the deficit and eventually tied the set at 20-20 on another kill by Waden. The two teams traded points, but Waden set up match point, 24-22 with another kill. Fittingly, her 20th, a laser down the line, clinched MSU's victory.
Mississippi State and Texas A&M will finish the two-match series Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT in Reed Arena as the Bulldogs close their fall road slate. The contest can be streamed digitally on SEC Network+ or the Watch ESPN App.