Southern Miss volleyball finishes season in C-USA semis

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Chandler Marshall goes for the spike
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The Southern Miss volleyball team’s season came to an end against Florida International in the Conference USA tournament last Saturday. Southern Miss entered the tournament, which was hosted by Marshall, as the No. 7 seed and opened tournament play against No. 2 Western Kentucky.

The tournament

Southern Miss earned an upset win over Western Kentucky in the opening round, which was its first win against the reigning C-USA champs since 1988. The Golden Eagles made a five-set comeback against the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky took a 2-0 lead in the match as they won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-15. However, Southern Miss stormed back with 14 kills from junior Ashley Berry and 15 kills from senior Kylie Grandy as they helped to tie the match and force a fifth set for the 10th time on the season. Southern Miss opened up with an 11-4 lead in the deciding set and won 15-11. Key in the win was the Golden Eagles’ defense as it came away with 16.5 blocks.

“We had a lot of hitters turn up their level of play,” Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said. “Our blocking became a lot more effective. Where I felt like we have struggled a lot this year, our defense really stepped up. I don’t have a problem being the underdog. I think this team is very talented.”

Southern Miss then faced Florida International in the semifinal round. Much like the contest against WKU, the Golden Eagles found themselves with a two-set deficit as the team dropped the first two sets by scores of 25-20, 25-19.

Southern Miss rallied back in the third set by winning 25-20. The momentum continued for the Golden Eagles in the fourth set as the team took a 6-1 lead but FIU closed the match and set with a 25-18 win.

The accolades

Southern Miss had three players named to the All-Conference USA team.

Senior Sarah Bell was named as first-team All-Conference for the third time in her career. In addition, Bell is now the school all-time career record holder in assists, which now stands at 4,981.

Senior Kylie Grandy was also named as a first team All-Conference selection. Grandy finished third all-time on the school’s list of kills and set a career-high in kills with 530. Senior Alexis Coombs was second-team All-Conference as she averaged a one block per set on the season and set career-highs in five different stat categories.

Looking ahead

Southern Miss loses five seniors, all of whom have been major factors in the team’s success the last four years. However, the Golden Eagles have multiple key returners for next season.

Junior Catherine Repsher was second on the team this season with 315 kills, 124 blocks and 31 aces. Sophomore Madison Lawler was the leader in digs with 402. Freshman Kellie Garraway had a major impact in her first season defensively as she finished with 216 digs and also contributed 61 assists (behind Bell’s 1,328) and 16 aces.