Southern Miss hosted the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Friday night with hopes of bouncing back from their last Conference USA loss, but were defeated in four sets, 3-1.
USM dropped to 19-11 overall and 8-5 in conference play, while WKU improved their stout record to 24-5 and 12-1 in conference play. The Hilltoppers outhit the Golden Eagles with a .308 hitting percentage to USM’s .083. Southern Miss completed the game with 42 kills, 60 digs and six team blocks.
The first set was led by USM’s seven kills. A Quinci Hayward kill gave the Golden Eagles an 8-6 edge early on. After a few lead changes, another kill by Hayward tied the score up at 16-16. The Hilltoppers battled back, scoring three in a row, forcing Southern Miss to call a timeout. Elise Ames’s kill closed the gap with USM only down one, 23-22. USM was able to keep the lead and won the first set 25-23.
In the second set, WKU came out strong offensively with a 7-4 lead after numerous USM attack errors. The Hilltoppers went on six-point run when Southern Miss’ head coach, Amanda Berkley, called a timeout to slow down the momentum. USM would only score three more points before they lost by a lopsided score of 25-9.
Western Kentucky came out strong with an early 7-1 lead over USM in the third set. The Southern Miss offense was in desperate need of a spark. The attack errors added up when USM found themselves down 17-5. The Hilltoppers never took their foot off the gas and won the third set 25-10. Stephany Purdue had three kills for the Golden Eagles.
USM was not waving their white flags in the fourth set. WKU did have an early lead, but a kill by Stephany Purdue had the Golden Eagles within two, 13-11. Late in the set, USM had huge back-to-back blocks by Ames and Chanel Joyce cutting WKU’s lead to only two, 23-21. A Purdue kill tied the game 25-25, but Southern Miss was unable to finish, losing the fourth set 27-25 and the match.
Purdue lead the team with 13 kills while Jasmine Crowell had 12. Southern Miss hosted Florida Atlantic Sunday and the Golden Eagles came out with a 3-0 sweep. Southern Miss finished with 43 kills, 63 digs, and nine team blocks. Hayward led the Golden Eagles with 14 kills, while Purdue added 12. Mary Pursell was credited with 21 digs.
FAU jumped out to an early 8-2 lead in the first set. USM battled their way back as a Hayward kill tied the set 10-10. While no dominance was shown early in the match, USM battled back from a 20-19 deficit to win the last part of the set by a score of 25-22.
The second set was tied nine different times as the Golden Eagles and Owls fought for the lead. However a 12-12 tie was the last of the set when USM went on a seven point run lead by three Southern Miss kills and one ace. Despite a late four point run by the Owls, Southern Miss won the second set, 25-18.
The third set did not come easy for the Golden Eagles. FAU had a six point lead mid-set, but a two kill effort from Crowell and Purdue set the tone for the rest of the set. Outscoring the Owls 10-6 in the middle of the set, tied it at 20-20 and would set up a dramatic ending where the Eagles would go on to win with a Hayward kill sealing the game at 27-25.
USM improved to 20-11 overall and 9-5 in conference play. They will travel to Birmingham taking on UAB on Nov. 14 and will wrap up regular season play at Charlotte on Nov.16.