Volleyball hits critical stretch before conference play

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Southern Miss prepares to defend.

The Southern Miss volleyball team is in an interesting situation as it nears the start of conference action. As it stands right now, the team holds a record of 6-4 as it heads into the Crimson-White Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Alabama this weekend. So far, the Golden Eagles have been on the winning side of close games, as well as on the losing end of some games, including two 3-2 losses to Ohio State and Ole Miss, as well as two 3-2 wins over Little Rock and Samford.

In the tournament, Southern Miss will face off against quality opponents. The team’s first matchup in the tournament is against Purdue, a team that currently has an 8-0 record. Alabama, Southern Miss’ last opponent in the tournament, stands at 9-0. The team will also face off against South Alabama in the tournament who exited last weekend with a 4-5 record. Given that the Golden Eagles  have lost to big name opponents this season so far, grabbing at least one win against either Alabama or Purdue this weekend could serve as a confidence booster and a statement for this team.

The benefit for the Golden Eagles is that many players are performing at a high level statistically in non-conference play. The team is second in Conference USA in terms of hitting percentage with a .262 mark so far. Junior Catherine Repsher leads C-USA in individual hitting percentage with a .421 percent mark, while senior Kylie Grandy has 157 kills over 38 sets, which leads the conference and the team. When it comes to assists, senior Sarah Bell is first on the team and second in the conference with 410 assists.

An encouraging sign to see Southern Miss players at or near the top of the statistical leaderboards among C-USA players.

Also something to note is the team’s record over its extended road stretch. Southern Miss has not played at home since its 3-0 win over ECU on Aug. 25 and will not return to Reed Green Coliseum until Sept. 27. The team’s record through seven road games stands at 3-4. Improved performance on the road is a must if the team is to make noise in conference play.  

Southern Miss will  kick off its conference schedule with a road matchup against UTSA on Sep. 21. Currently, UTSA has a 7-2 overall record, so the matchup will serve as a challenge and a litmus test for Southern Miss as to how they might fare during the rest of conference play. UAB, Rice, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Western Kentucky and Charlotte are the other programs beside Southern Miss that have winning records so far this season, but standings will move around as the season progresses.

Overall, there is a lot to be positive about when it comes to the volleyball program, but the season is still early. This is an experienced unit and experience is a big advantage when it comes to close games and sets. If the team could grab at least two wins in the tournament this upcoming weekend, it may give the team the boost it needs to make a big run in conference play.

Editor’s Note: All statistics and records included in this article are accurate as of Sunday, September 9.