The volleyball team kept steady this past weekend, going 1-1 over two matches against Western Kentucky (19-2, 6-0) and Middle Tennessee State (5-16, 3-4).
Southern Miss (17-6,4-2) took care of business relatively easily against Middle Tennessee State, sweeping the Blue Raiders 3-0 on Friday.
In the first set, the Golden Eagles jumped out to an 8-4 lead to set the tone for the contest. The Blue Raiders fought back, led by three straight points from senior Rachel Shaughnessy. After a timeout from Middle Tennessee when the score was 17-14 in Southern Miss’ favor, the Golden Eagles blitzed out to an 8-4 run, bringing the game to a decisive 25-18 set point for the Golden Eagles.
The second set went differently for Southern Miss, as they held tight with the Blue Raiders as the score was 12-12 shortly into the contest. After a substitution for the Golden Eagles, bringing in sophomore Natalie Druhan in place of senior Rachel Johnson, Middle Tennessee just could not keep up with the Golden Eagle
offense, falling 25-19. The third set held even tighter than the second, when both teams had 11 ties and six lead changes. Both teams traded scores well into the 20th point, when MTSU tied up the contest. In the set, there were 16 substitutions in the period, as both coaches were just looking for the right combination of players to pull off the win.
In the end, junior Stephany Purdue delivered in the clutch to seal the deal for the Golden Eagles when she captured her 14th kill in the match, giving the Golden Eagles the close 25-22 victory.
Purdue paced the Golden Eagles with 14 kills, while freshman Kylie Grandy made her mark with nine kills in the match. The Golden Eagles also edged MTSU in kills, errors and in total attacks through all three sets.
After the Friday night matchup against the Blue Raiders, the Golden Eagles had a tough task in going up against the No. 23 team in the nation, Western Kentucky.
The Golden Eagles were routed on their own floor, losing the first set by nine points. Western Kentucky finished an 88 percent team attack for the period, winning 25-16 over USM.
The second set went a lot smoother for the Golden Eagles, as they kept pace with the Hilltoppers into the 22nd point. With the set on the line, Stephany Purdue scored three straight points for Southern Miss and the Golden Eagles captured the set on an attack error by the Hilltoppers. With the match tied at one, Southern Miss was in position to knock off a team that had only lost two games all season.
Southern Miss came out flat in the third set, getting embarrassed 25-9 by Western Kentucky. Southern Miss had a chance to regroup after a timeout when they were down just 7-2, but they could not get back on track after the break in action. The Hilltoppers used an 18-7 run, winning by 16 points in the set.
The Golden Eagles fell behind early in the last set of the match, 21-8 at one point, but they did not stop fighting. With a 13-point deficit, the Golden Eagles realized they had nothing to lose. They caught the Hilltoppers by surprise when they went on a 9-3 run, bringing the score to just 24-17. But the Golden Eagles’ miracle was halted when sophomore Sydney Engle iced the game for Western Kentucky.
Southern Miss finished the game being out-hit and out-dug by the Hilltoppers. They will play their next six out of 10 games at home, where they hold a 7-1 record. Going into conference play, the Western Kentucky loss can be a nice litmus test for what the standard is for getting to the top of Conference USA.
Southern Miss will play host to FIU and La. Tech this weekend as it looks to get back on track.