Volleyball Signs Three For 2023 Class

Published 2:19 pm Thursday, November 10, 2022

STARKVILLE – Head coach Julie Darty Dennis and the Mississippi State volleyball program have announced the addition of three new Bulldogs who signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

The 2023 MSU volleyball signing class includes setter Erin Kline, libero and defensive specialist Mary Neal and middle blocker Arissa Smith.

“The class of 2023 is a really special class to us,” Dennis said. “We took a really long time to make sure this was a great match for us from a player’s standpoint, but also from a personality and character standpoint. This group of people is special and near and dear to my heart. I’ve taken a lot of time to get to know them, and I think they’re going to bring a lot to the table and to the program.”

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Neal and Kline were each named to the AVCA All-American watchlist. In 2022, the pair was named to PrepVolleyball.com’s ranking of the top 150 players, while Neal was also named to the Prep Volleyball class of 2023 top 150.

“Mary [Neal], Erin [Kline] and Arissa [Smith] are elite athletes that come from really high-level clubs, and they’ve played high level volleyball for a really long time,” Dennis said. “They’re definitely going to make an impact on our gym from the moment they step on our campus. We’re just so excited to welcome them to the family.”

The 2023 Bulldog Volleyball Signing Class

Erin Kline | 6-3 | Setter | Novi, Michigan/Mercy HS

“Erin Kline is a setter who’s got great size, great hands, and a great feel for the game,” said Dennis. “She’s also played at a high level for quite some time. She’s someone that we’re really excited about coming in to help us continue to run our offense and she’s a great person. I love her personality on the court. She has a great demeanor and she’s very composed, and I think that’s very important with setters.”

As a sophomore and senior, she helped her high school team earn the DIV 1 District Championship. In 2022, she earned an All-League honors.

Kline played club for the Legacy Volleyball Club, where she helped her team win back-to-back AAU Championships in 2021-22. In 2021, her club team was ranked No. 1 by PrepVolleyball.com.

In 2019, she participated with her club team in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships, where they finished third. The third-place finish was the highest finish of any age open level team from Michigan since 2003.

“Erin can manage her team and manage her emotions in a composed and cool way,” Dennis said. “I’m very excited for her to come in and see what she’s going to be able to
do right away, even in her freshman season.”

Mary Neal | 5-10 | Libero/Defensive Specialist | Marietta, Georgia/Walton HS

“Mary [Neal] is just an elite volleyball player. She’s a really talented passer and defender,” said Dennis “She’s played outside for her career in club and high school, and I think that’s one thing I really like about her. She transitions into a more of a libero/defensive specialist for us. She’s just a wonderful passer and a wonderful defender. She sees the game really well, a student of the game, and her IQ is just off the charts.”

During her junior year, she helped her high school volleyball team earn the title of 2021 state champions. Neal issued 415 kills and 279 digs during her junior year. After her junior campaign, she earned All-Region and Player of the Year honors and made the All-State team.

In 2022, Neal was named to the All-America watchlist, Max Preps best player in Georgia, Max Preps preseason All-America watchlist and USA Today’s watchlist.
Neal finished her senior campaign with a total of 1,305 kills and 707 digs.

“She’s been trained and played at the highest level, and she’s competed for national championships year in and year out, so she’s going to bring a championship mindset to our program,” Dennis said. “I think she’s going to help us continue to rely on a solid first contact so that we can continue to be a quick offensive team and run our offense the way we want to. I think Mary’s going to have a big impact on that for us.”

On the club circuit, she helped A5 Volleyball become the 2022 NIT 17U Champions and in 2021 the NIT 16U Champions. In 2021, Neal was named to the All-American second team and Max Preps underclass All-American first team.

Arissa Smith | 6-2 | Middle Blocker | Missouri City, Texas/Ridge Point HS

“Arissa Smith is a middle blocker coming out of Houston, Texas,” Dennis said. “She’s been fortunate enough to play in the state of Texas where that’s probably the closest thing to the college game. She’s a huge presence at the net, she’s a skillful attacker, and she’s just an all-around wonderful person.”

Smith helped her high school team become four-time district champions from 2019-22. In 2019 and 2021, her team were state semi-finalists.

As a sophomore, she earned honorable mention honors and as a junior she earned second team honors.

Smith finished her senior campaign with a total of 444 kills and 409 blocks.

In 2019 and 2021, she helped Houston Juniors Volleyball double qualify for the GJNC nationals.

“I love her personality and her smile,” said Dennis. “She just brings joy to whatever she’s doing, whoever she’s around, and she’s a warm, infectious personality. I think she’s going to be someone that comes in and immediately helps our gym and helps our team, so I’m really excited about these three.”

For more information on the Bulldog volleyball program, visit HailState.com or search for “HailStateVB” on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.