Southern Miss opened conference play against Louisiana Tech with a victory. The Golden Eagles were able to win 3-1 (25-18, 25-15, 21-25, 25-17), pushing their school- best start to 13-4 and 1-0 in conference.
After matching point-for-point the first 16 points, the Golden Eagles scored seven of the next nine points to take a 15-10 lead. Southern Miss closed out the set scoring six of the final nine points for a 25-18 win.
Southern Miss started the second set strong with six dif- ferent players recording at least one kill as the Golden Eagles finished with 14 digs. The USM defense held the Techsters to just eight kills for a 25-15 win.
After Southern Miss scored the first point to open the third set, Louisiana Tech then went on a 10-3 run in taking a 10-4 lead. Southern Miss fought back and cut the lead to 21-20, but failed to close out the set as the Techsters scored four of the fi- nal five points for the 25-21 win.
The Golden Eagles scored 10 of the first 16 points in taking a 16-10 lead to start the fourth set. Southern Miss continued to add points to the lead and ran the score to 20-14, forcing Loui- siana Tech to take its final time- out. Southern Miss finished the set strong for a 25-17 win.
Three Golden Eagles regis- tered double-figure kills, led by sophomore Kelsey Chambers with 15 kills while Kylie Grandy had 11 and Stephany Purdue pitched in 10. Mary Pursell came up with 19 digs while freshman Sarah Bell, senior Shelby Rus- sell and Grandy added 17, 10 and 11 digs, respectively. Bell also tallied 35 assists on her quest to a double-double.
With conference play under- way, USM knows it has to play as well as they did to start the season in order to compete. Conference USA boasts several teams capable of bringing home the conference title. Reigning conference champion Western Kentucky and runner-up Rice look to be in top form as both teams enter conference play with double digit wins, the Hill- toppers with 12 and the Owls with 10 wins.
North Texas, the team that ended the Golden Eagles run in the conference tournament last season, have gotten off to a hot start with 11 wins. The Golden Eagles face Florida Atlantic (9-4, 0-1) for their sec-
ond conference tilt at Reed Green Coliseum. FAU fell to Florida International in their conference opener.
Following a non-conference match versus South Alabama, the Golden Eagles will travel to Charlotte to face the 49ers on Oct. 1. Charlotte struggled in the early portion of their season, but defeated UTEP 3-1 in their conference opener.
After traveling to Charlotte, Southern Miss will head to Bir- mingham to face UAB. UAB is winless through three games in conference play so far this season. Southern Miss returns to Reed Green to face Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 9. The Blue Raiders went 3-12 in the first part of their schedule, taking victories over Bowling Green, Liberty and conference foe UAB.
The Golden Eagles then travel to face WKU who took last season’s matchup 3-1 (23-25, 25-9, 25-10, 27-25). Southern Miss look to even the score this season on Oct. 11.
FIU and Louisiana Tech come to town the following week as the Golden Eagles will look to top the Techsters once again. The Golden Eagles will travel to face FAU for the second time on Oct. 21, this time in Boca Raton, Florida.
For a two game home-stand the Golden Eagles will host UTEP and UAB. UTEP finished in the middle of pack last sea- son, along with the Golden Eagles in the conference stand- ings. UTEP will visit Oct. 23 and UAB comes to town Oct. 25 for a second showdown.
Southern Miss travels to Rice on Oct. 29 to face last season’s conference tournament runner- up. Rice ended the season .500 in the conference, but made a run in the conference tour- nament to put a bow on what would have been a mediocre season. The Golden Eagles will then travel to compete at North Texas in Denton, Texas, on Oct. 31.
Southern Miss will close the season at home for the final two matches, hosting Charlotte Nov. 8 and last season’s regu- lar season champion UTSA on Nov. 12.
Southern Miss has a ton of se- nior leadership and has shown the ability to dominate at times. But whenever it comes to con- ference play, anything can hap- pen. The Golden Eagles have a legitimate chance to make some noise this season if their torrid start is any indication.