Lost among the growing anticipation of the approaching football season, two of Mississippi State’s other fall sports will be underway before the month of August is out, as both the volleyball and soccer teams begin their preseason training in the coming days, preparing for their first matches of the season.
One of the points I’ll make here on the HailState Beat is to stay up-to-date and on top of both teams throughout the fall, as each is in a position to continue a climb up the Southeastern Conference ladder. They run in the same heat, live under the same guidelines, take the same classes and sacrifice their bodies the same way the football team does, even if they don’t often get the credit for it.
Starting this morning with volleyball, I caught up with head coach Jenny Hazelwood and a pair of her players in anticipation of practice starting, with the opening match coming soon on August 24 when MSU hosts a round-robin tournament on campus.
Entering her fourth season, Hazelwood has a unique mix of talented youth and proven upperclassmen not unlike Dan Mullen’s early football teams.
MSU only has one senior and two juniors on the roster, but the group of 10 sophomores and freshmen is as talented as any that MSU has had in recent years. As Hazelwood described it, volleyball recruiting is done years in advance, similar to college baseball, so when a new coach gets to campus, it often takes a number of years to catch back up.
Hazelwood may have done it quicker than that, with Paris Perret, now a junior, immediately becoming a star as a freshman on campus and now having the rewards of two-straight impressive signing classes on campus, with plenty more on the way, it seems.
Struggling through injuries and inexperience in 2011, State still took a significant step forward in the direction of the program, defeating ranked SEC opponents and playing several more down to the final points.
With Perret now the leader of the team and a bevy of young talent on the court with her, Hazelwood’s squad enters the 2012 campaign with more confidence and higher expectations than any previous team.
I caught up with Hazelwood, Perret and six-foot freshman Taylor Scott, a California native who I’m told might be the next big thing. (A note on that: MSU has six freshmen. Five of them are 6’0” tall or higher, including 6’2” Taylor Hackemack.)
Take a few minutes to hear from them, and make sure you listen for which football star Paris both gives and gets advice on leadership from. Also, credit Taylor for doing a stand-up job in her first interview, despite my terrible line of questioning.