Southern Miss kicked off the 2016 volleyball season with a 3-1 win over Mc- Neese State on Friday night at Oak Grove High School.
After dropping the first set, the Golden Eagles rallied to win three straight sets to clinch a win in the opening match of the Southern Miss Invitational.
In the first set, Southern Miss quickly took a 10-7 lead before allowing the Cow- girls to battle back and tie the set at 11-11. From there, McNeese State would take the lead and go on to clinch the set 25-21.
In the second set, the Golden Eagles trailed 2-1 before winning a hard-fought point to capture momentum. From there, Southern Miss did not look back. The Golden Eagles easily won the second set 25-9 to go into halftime tied at one set each. Southern Miss quickly took a 9-3 lead coming out of halftime and would go on to win the set 25-9.
The fourth set was more competitive, with the Golden Eagles maintaining the lead for the majority of the set. The Cow- girls battled to within three points, trailing 17-14. However, Southern Miss tallied the next four points and went on to win the set 25-17.
Senior Stephany Purdue led the Golden Eagles with 16 kills and 19 points, while freshman Catherine Repsher had 14 kills and 20.5 points.
Coach Amanda Berkley was pleased with how her team rallied after the first set.
“We just had first match jitters in that first set,” Berkley said. “Then, we came out and we got it all out of our system and came to play the next three sets. It was just a total team effort, and it was fun.”
On the second day of the Southern Miss Invitational, the Golden Eagles would take on the Grambling State Tigers. USM made quick work of their counterparts shutting them out, 3-0.
Southern Miss dominated the first set by jumping out to a 8-1 lead, then cruising to a 25-11 victory.
The second frame saw the Tigers get out to a 3-0 lead, then keep the game competitive throughout. But after the Golden Eagles amped the defense, Grambling was suffocated and faltered to a 12-4 Southern Miss run, losing the set 25-14.
Again in the third set, the Southern Miss defense was put on full display by shutting down the Grambling offense to a 25-15 victory, cruising to a 3-0 match win.
After their win against Grambling State earlier in the day, Tulane was the next opponent on the docket.
“They were a big team,” Berkley said. “Their defense was unbelievable.”
The championship game drew a host of fans including former men’s basketball star Chip Armelin, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and newly enshrined Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.
The Golden Eagles went ahead 7-4 on the Green Wave after a kill from Kylie Grandy. By the time Tulane had wavered momentum to Southern Miss, the first set had been out of reach with USM up 22-17.
The Golden Eagles were able to close out the first set 25-22 on a Sarah Bell kill.
The second set saw a back-and- forth affair between both teams trading points until Southern Miss took a decisive 20-17 advantage. Following that three point advantage, Tulane went on a 4-0 run to go up 21-20.
Both teams fought to the last point and the Golden Eagles were the first to 25 points, then scored the subsequent 26th point and the second set.
Using a 5-0 run in the third, the Green Wave closed out the Golden Eagles 25-20 in a quick set.
“We had some miscommunications at the end of a very important set,” Berkley said. “We can’t make those mistakes towards the end of sets.”
In the fourth, the Green Wave used the momentum from the last set to jump out to a 7-0 lead. But, the Golden Eagles would keep on trying to match their counterparts and coming to tie the contest at 10-10.
Again matching at 21, the Golden Eagles fought to take a decisive advantage 24-23. Then Tulane took the match at 27-25.
Starting a dramatic fifth set, the Golden Eagles went out to a 7-2 lead. Southern Miss would control the match late into the contest, but squander it late. The Golden Eagles would fall 15-13 in the final set and go on to lose the contest.
The Golden Eagles will host the Southern Jaguars on Aug. 30 at Reed Green Coliseum.