Down year ends, bright future remains for Southern Miss volleyball team
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Southern Miss volleyball dropped the final two matches of their season over the weekend. The Lady Eagles lost to Memphis in five sets on Friday and four sets to UAB on Sunday. The two losses finished an 8-20 season for the Eagles, who struggled in conference, posting a 4-12 record in C-USA play. The Eagles did not qualify for the conference tournament.
On Friday, the Eagles found themselves on the wrong end of a late run in the first set. Southern Miss controlled most of the set but allowed Memphis to come back and tie the game at 18 points before using a 7-2 run to end it. The first set predicted the rest of the match, as neither team won a set by more than five points. In the end, Memphis took the match by a score of 3-2.
Two Eagles hit career-highs in the match. Sophomore Jasmine Crowell recorded 20 kills, while freshman Rachel Johnson recorded 14 kills. Senior Elizabeth Rinaudo had 20 digs, and sophomore Kristin Fleming had 55 assists.
A slow start doomed the Eagles on Sunday. UAB took the first two sets 25-14 and 25-15 before the Eagles got it rolling. Southern Miss battled back to take the third set 25-23 despite their five point lead being cut to one by a late run for the Blazers. The Eagles tried to use a late run of their own in the fourth set before UAB shut the door and closed out the Eagles’ season with a 25-20 set victory.
Southern Miss was led by their two seniors on Senior Night. Halie Ecker was all over the court with her nine kills and 11 digs. Fellow senior Elizabeth Rinaudo posted a match-high 25 digs as she tried to end her career with a win.
Last season, the Lady Eagles finished with a 17-15 record and were 11-9 in C-USA play. That team was led by six seniors, who all saw the majority of playing time. It was going to be a tough fight for this year’s team to repeat that level of success.
The 2012 Eagles returned two seniors and one junior and fully relied on inexperienced sophomores and freshman to battle night in and night out. Nine different players saw action in more than 20 matches this season. Of those players, two were seniors, three were sophomores and four were freshmen.
Next season, Southern Miss will return two of its three highest kill scorers and its leading setter. Crowell led the team in kills and blocks this season with 317 kills and 99 total blocks, 30 more than the next Eagle. Johnson was third on the team in kills and blocks with 233 kills and 52 blocks. Fleming will be back at setter next season after her 1,070 assist campaign this year.
Head volleyball coach Abbey Sutherland and staff will miss seniors Halie Ecker and Elisabeth Rinaudo next season. Ecker was second on the team in kills, and Rinaudo led the team in digs. Growth from Johnson and fellow freshman Quinci Hayward should combine with Crowell to make up for the loss in kills. Look for sophomore Alex Pfefferle, second on the team in digs, to have a bigger role next year to try to replace Rinaudo.
“This squad has a bright future,” Sutherland said. “With almost the entire team returning, a lot of work and progress needs to be made in the off-season. Next season, the team will have a ton of experience and a better understanding of the game.”
It was announced on Tuesday that freshmen Lydia Bonner and Quinci Hayward were both named to the C-USA All-Freshmen Team.