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MSU volleyball's Harris tabbed to All-SEC Freshman Team

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) — After tallying one of the best freshman campaigns in MSU volleyball history, including capturing the Bulldogs’ single-season record for digs, Payton Harris was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team on Wednesday, the league announced.

For the year, Harris has totaled 695 digs, 79 assists, 31 service aces and six kills in her rookie year with the Maroon and White.

Along with her 695 digs, Harris also enters State’s Wednesday home finale with 6.10 digs per set, standing second nationally and tops in the SEC in both categories. In 20 of MSU’s 31 matches so far this year, Harris has tallied 20-plus digs, with a pair of 40-plus matches. Her highlight match came against Northwestern State on Sept. 13, when she tallied 59 digs to set the school and Southeastern Conference record for digs in a single match.

“I just want to say how grateful I am to my team and my coaches for pushing me to be the best I could be all year and for not letting me slack off,” Harris said.” I am very proud of the season I’ve had and am extremely happy that I have gotten to play with these girls throughout every match.”

Her 695 total also are the school record for digs in a single season. Harris toppled the record when she tallied 29 total in a home contest against in-state rival Ole Miss on Nov. 5. Her season total also placed her second on the SEC single-season list, standing 45 digs away from tying the conference record of 740 set by LSU’s Elena Martinez in 2007. Also, with five more digs, Harris would become the first player in school history and only the second in SEC history to post 700 digs in a season.

While deadly from the back row on defense, the libero from Houston, Texas, has also been a stud from the service line. Harris leads MSU with 31 aces and a 0.27 per set average, which is good for 11th in the conference. Earlier in the season, Harris teamed with junior Katlyn Mataya to put on a serving clinic against Nicholls State on Sept. 13. Both tallied five aces a piece to spearhead MSU’s 12-ace performance, the first time a pair of Bulldogs had done so since 2004.

Harris accomplished all of these feats while not missing a beat this season, seeing action in all 31 matches and 114 sets played so far by the Maroon and White.

"I can't say enough about what Payton has meant to this team all season long,” MSU head coach Jenny Hazelwood said. “She is an incredible athlete that plays with the heart of a champion. She has been blessed with all of the attributes that make her a great libero and has combined that with unbelievable work ethic. I truly expect to see great things from her throughout her career."

Harris becomes the 16th All-SEC selection and only the fifth All-SEC Freshman Team selection in program history. The selection also marks five-straight seasons MSU has had a representative on the All-SEC team, all coming under the leadership of Hazelwood. It is the second longest in the team’s history, starting with Lainey Wyman 2011. State’s longest stretch came with seven-straight honorees from 1992-1998.

Regional and national AVCA awards will be announced in the coming weeks.

Florida took home a majority of the conference honors, as Alex Holston was named SEC Player of the Year, Rhamat Alhassan honored as the SEC Freshman of the Year and Mary Wise tabbed for SEC Coach of the Year. The Gators, who earned six total All-SEC selections, are currently 23-3 and 17-0 in the conference, having already clinched the SEC Regular Season Championship.

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