Southern Miss (23-9, 10-5 Conference USA) got back on track this weekend, topping Marshall and Charlotte after being swept in back- to-back matches last week by Rice and North Texas.
USM was in a back-and-forth affair in the first set against Marshall and were tied 24-24. Needing to win by two points, Kylie Grandy stepped up with a kill, and then Elise Ames and Kelsey Chambers teamed up to block Marshall’s Shelby Conley’s attempt to tie the set, giving USM the 26-24 win.
Sparked by a 10-2 run to close out the second set, USM went up 2-0 in the match with a 25-16 win. Marshall battled the Golden Eagles in the third set and were down by just two, 23-21, down the stretch, but USM pulled away with kills by Stephany Purdue and Grandy to sweep the Thundering Herd.
Purdue led the Golden Eagles with 13 kills while Grandy added 10. Sarah Bell tallied 38 assists and six kills on an impressive .750 hitting clip. Mary Pursell was the only Golden Eagle with double-digit digs with 28.
Despite coming in with a poor 8-16 record and only five conference wins, Charlotte gave the Golden Eagles all they could handle Sunday on USM’s home court.
Charlotte claimed the first set, using an 8-4 run to close out the set to top USM 25-21. But it was USM that lost the set rather than Charlotte winning it. During the run, USM committed four attack errors and two service errors to allow the 49ers to go up 1-0.
The second set was a completely different narrative as USM was in control from start to finish. After a kill by Ames gave USM the early 1-0 lead, it never relinquished the lead and tied the match with a 25-13 victory.
The third set was a little closer, but USM still clearly outplayed the 49ers onthewaytoa25-17wintoputit up 2-1 in the match. But Charlotte did not go away quietly.
USM’s only lead in the fourth set was after an Abreia Epps kill put the Golden Eagles up 2-1. The 49ers never truly distanced themselves, but never allowed USM to tie up the set again as they picked up the match-tying 25-23 win.
In the deciding fifth set, both sides were evenly matched. There were nine score ties and four lead changes in the set, including being tied at 12 apiece. But then the Golden Eagles took over. After a Charlotte attack error gave USM the 13-12 lead, Ames rose up to block Anna Henderson’s kill attempt. Bell then set up Grandy for the match- ending kill.
Four Golden Eagles had double- digit kills, led by Purdue with 17 as well as four with double digit digs. Bell set the tone for the offense all match, finishing with 51 assists.
The Golden Eagles are in sole possession of third place in the conference now and with a win in the season finale against Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 12, they will secure a first round bye.
However, a loss could spell trouble for USM as Rice and North Texas both are 9-5 in conference play at the moment. So if the Owls and Mean Green both win their final two matches and USM loses to UTSA, the Golden Eagles would fall to fifth and would not earn a bye.
The Golden Eagles will need to bring their A-game Wednesday in order to preserve a first-round bye. First serve is at 6 p.m.