Overall, 2016 was a successful year for the Golden Eagles’ athletic programs.
The combination of talented recruiting classes and senior classes helped almost every team find success in Conference USA. Along with several conference championship runs, each athletic program had numerous individual accolades in both academics and athletic honors.
The baseball program proved once again to be one of the most consistently successful programs for the university. Baseball brought home the C-USA championship and made it to an NCAA Regional. With many starters returning for this upcoming season the team should be able to easily duplicate its success for next season.
Southern Miss football has a bright future led by Jay Hopson, who was appointed head coach in 2016 and brought home the school’s first bowl win in the New Orleans Bowl since 2011. The offense had one of the most successful seasons in the school’s history under senior quarterback Nick Mullens.
Volleyball also had another highly successful and historic season. Seniors Stephany Purdue, Chanel Joyce, and Makareta Rademakers became the winningest class in school history with 84 wins as a group. Purdue became the all- time school record holder in kills with 1,577 in the match on Senior Day.
The team finished the season in the conference tournament semifinals with a 23-8 record. Catherine Repsher was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year, and the team also had five players make the all-conference team. Next season the team will look to Repsher and Kylie Grandy to fill the shoes of the senior class. If the program can produce another strong recruiting class, then they can easily make an appearance in the conference tournament final in the upcoming seasons.
The women’s cross country team won three meets this past season, finishing fourth in conference and breaking the school record for points scored in a Regional competition. Despite the graduation of seasoned senior runners Dana Dillistone and Daphney Stanford, the young and upcoming athletes on the team promise a bright future for the program. The Golden Eagles are easily a contender for the conference championship next season.
The Track and Field program brought home several individual conference titles for Southern Miss in the 400m event last spring. However, the program still lacks the ability to make it to be a major competitive force in C-USA due to the lack of a complete team. Kadaria Thompson had a strong freshman season which will make her a force to be reckoned with in her upcoming years. Notably, the upcoming recruiting class seems to be a talented group and may be the foundation for the success of the program. The program needs to continue to produce productive recruiting classes and develop its young athletes, in order to create a competitive squad in seasons to come.
The Golden Eagles soccer team had its first winning season in 13 years going 8-7-2. The team will lose key starters Rikki Randrup and four-year starter goalkeeper Brittany Taylor. The team will return strong with Becky McMullen and Beth Coleman, who were both essential to the success of the team. The program will have only five seniors graduate which will leave a highly experienced team for next season.
The 2016 season for the softball team was one of the most successful years since 2004. The team posted a 30-win season, won the Conference USA West and ended the season in the conference tournament semifinals. With the return of a majority of its starters, the team will be a major threat for the Conference USA crown. With the return of their ace pitcher Samantha Robles and several key hitters, the team has all the necessary tools to make it to a NCAA Regional.
The women’s basketball program has showed improvement from last season, but their lack of size continues to hurt the team. The team easily has enough talent to make the postseason with Brittanny Dinkins at the helm. The Lady Eagles should make the conference tournament and make a return to the NAIA.
Unlike the women, the men’s basketball program continues to have problems. The program may have hit rock bottom but fortunately, the only place to go is up. Southern MIss’ men’s basketball team needs to look to make bigger strides to get better and hopefully find talented players in upcoming recruiting classes.
Almost every program can make a legitimate run at a conference championship in the upcoming year. If each program can make the proper adjustments, then 2017 should be a banner year for the Golden Eagle athletic program.