Lady Eagles have growing pains during Invitational
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 21:08
It’s never easy to replace a senior starter and the leadership that comes with their experience; see the game in Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday. Now try to imagine losing an entire starting roster and only returning two players that saw significant time last year. That was the challenge that faced the Southern Miss volleyball team and head coach Abbey Sutherland as the Lady Eagles hosted the Southern Miss Invitational last weekend. Southern Miss rolled out a rotation of five freshman, five sophomores, one junior and two seniors for their matches against South Alabama, Central Arkansas and Louisiana Tech.
“We learned a lot, I had high expectations and I think we all were a little shell-shocked,” Sutherland said. “We were practicing so well but we played against another team. We were very young. We basically had two people who had seen the court consistently there [Friday]. I think it was about gaining experience. We were better [Saturday] morning and we put it all together [Saturday] night.”
The Lady Eagles started the season against the Lady Jaguars of South Alabama on Friday night. USA returned its top kill and dig-leaders along with their setter. Southern Miss fought hard and kept the second and third sets close. The Jaguars’ experience showed late in each set, however, and they were able to close all three sets to sweep the Eagles in their first match of the season. USA took the match in straight sets 25-16, 25-22 and 25-22.
Saturday morning saw the Lady Eagles facing the Sugar Bears of Central Arkansas, who were looking to finish the Invitational perfectly. The Bears were led by senior Taylor Hammonds and junior Marissa Collins. After making the first set look easy, UCA struggled with great play from Southern Miss. The Lady Eagles led 22-15 in the second set and had the momentum before Central Arkansas called a time-out. A 10-1 run was the result of that time-out as UCA took the second set 25-23. Sutherland called that set “a heartbreaker,” and it showed in the third as the Bears stormed out to a 20-10 lead before finishing the match off for a straight sets victory. UCA defeated USM 25-16, 25-23 and 25-16.
Sutherland and the Lady Eagles looked to stay positive because they knew it was only a matter of time before everything clicked, which happened in the finale of the Southern Miss Invitational against Louisiana Tech. The first set started tight, but Southern Miss prevailed to win its first set of the year. Everything was rolling after that, as the Lady Eagles took down the Lady Techsters in straight sets 25-22, 25-14 and 25-15. Southern Miss was led by senior Halie Ecker, sophomore Jasmine Crowell and freshman Lydia Bonner who recorded 16, 14, and 12 kills, respectively. Sophomore setter Kristen Fleming led the way with 37 assists, which brought her total to 90 for the weekend.
“We continued to talk after each match about the importance of coming together as a team and working together,” Sutherland said. “I think just experience made us click. I wish loses didn’t make that happen, but you learn more from losses than wins.”
Ecker and Crowell made the All-Tournament Team. The team also included Mario Coehlo from Louisiana Tech; Jenna Hassell and Olivia Mohler from South Alabama; and Jessica Nagy, Marissa Collins and Taylor Hammonds from Central Arkansas. Hammonds was named Tournament MVP.
The Lady Eagles left the Southern Miss Invitational with a season record of 1-2. They will travel to Lafayette, La. on Thursday for the Bon Temps Invitational and will face Houston Baptist, Louisiana Lafayette, and McNeese State.