Southern Miss continued its historic start Tuesday, sweeping New Orleans 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-21), improving to 12-1.
Studs Stephany Purdue and Quinci Hayward got the night off as head coach Amanda Berkley decided to get some of the younger Golden Eagles some experience. It was a savvy move by Berkley as USM will need its underclassmen to be prepared when conference play begins next week.
“It was nice to get some underclassmen in there and get some experience for them,” Berkley said.
The first set was hotly contested in the early going, but USM closed the set with a 9-3 run to take the early 1-0 advantage. Kylie Grandy, Sarah Bell and Rachel Johnson each played big roles in securing the opening set.
The second set was a back-and- forth affair until Alexis Coombs broke up a 14-14 tie. Mary Pursell served three consecutive points as part of a 11-4 run by the Golden Eagles to close out the set.
In set three, Shelby Russell was dominant serving the ball, collecting three aces. The set remained close throughout, but the Privateers just could not break through and failed to capture the lead once. Grandy capped off the match with a kill assisted by Bell. Without Purdue and Hayward on the court, Berkley lauded Pursell’s leadership as the team’s libero.
“Pursell is a good team leader for us. She’s our libero so she’s on the court a lot. She’s got to be a calming influence back there, digging a lot of balls. (Pursell) has done a really nice job for us.” – Berkley
Despite her head coach’s kind words, Pursell knows the team’s success boils down to teamwork and being there for one another.
“Part of our success this year is the fact that we’ve been playing as a team completely, 100 percent,” Pursell said. “That’s how we’ve been winning because we’ve been clicking (as a team).”
Grandy and Chanel Joyce each collected double-digit kills with 11 apiece. Bell was the table setter for the USM offense all night, assisting on 33 kills. Pursell and Coombs led the way defensively as Pursell recorded 19 digs while Coombs had eight total blocks.
As a team, the Golden Eagles had 39 kills on a .281 hitting percentage, 40 digs and 12 team blocks.
The Golden Eagles will look to continue their dominance this weekend when they travel to Memphis, Tennessee, for the Tiger Invitational. They will play Mississippi State, Memphis and Austin Peay.