USM stays hot in conference play
Southern Miss welcomed two conference opponents to Reed Green Coliseum this weekend. On Friday, the Golden Eagles faced off against North Texas and finished the weekend with Marshall.
USM and North Texas came out firing in the first set trading point after point. The largest lead of the first half was a five point advantage held by USM.
The score was 15-10 and it looked like North Texas was going to take the lead, but Quinci Hayward has continued to dominate the net. Back to back kills by Harward gave the Golden Eagles a comfortable 17-13 lead.
Holly Milam started the first set comeback with a kill making the score 17-14. North Texas took advantage of five Southern Miss errors and took a two point 20-18 lead.
After a USM timeout, the Golden Eagles got back on track. Kristen Fleming made a perfect set that Stephany Purdue converted into a kill. USM and North Texas would continue to trade points until an attack error committed by Hanna Frost gave USM the 29-27 victory.
North Texas came into the second set determined to even the match at one apiece. North Texas looked like they would cruise to a set two win, leading by as much as 21-13.
However, Southern Miss wouldn’t go down without a fight. USM battled to stay in the set, but North Texas was able to hold on to the lead and win 25-22 to even the match at 1-1.
Southern Miss exploded out of the break, hitting an impressive .395 as a team, and cut down on the errors, committing just four in set three. That mark, in combination with a dismal offensive performance, as North Texas had a .154 hitting percentage, would spot the home team a lead heading into the fourth set. With a 23-19 lead, Southern Miss was able to score four out of the next seven points to take set three, 25-21.
The fourth set remained close the whole set, with neither team leading by more than three points. The Mean Green fought back, scraping its way back to tie things up at 23-23 at a crucial time. What looked like a turning point for North Texas, ended up being too much to overcome as back-to-back kills by Stephany Purdue sealed the 25-23 victory for Southern Miss and gave Southern Miss the 3-1 match victory.
Quinci Hayward led the way with 17 kills with a .306 hitting clip.
Sunday would prove to be another test for the Golden Eagles, as they faced Marshall. Hayward came out hot for the Golden Eagles, giving Southern Miss a 3-1 lead.
USM and Marshall battled, trading points until Southern Miss found their groove and pushed their lead to a 21-14 seven point lead. Hayward led the way to a 25-18 set one win, scoring two of USM’s final six points.
Down one set, Marshall came out desperate, knowing it would be hard to come back from a 0-2 hole. Marshall rebounded in set two, breaking away at the eight point mark and winning three straight points. The Herd continued to add insurance, increasing its lead by five points before taking the set 25-17 and evening up the match 1-1.
Marshall could not maintain the momentum; however, coming up short in the third set 25-17. Hayward and Stephany Purdue combined for five kills to give USM an early 7-3 lead. USM did not trail once in set three on their way to a 25-15 victory.
Before set four, USM players were visibly telling each other, “Let’s go home.” Anxious to send Marshall home in four sets, USM came out firing, as did Marshall. The fourth set saw nine ties. Southern Miss finally created some breathing room with a 17-12 lead.
Marshall worked its way back, using a three point rally to tie the match at 24-all. That would be as close as Marshall would come. Hayward and Purdue scored the final two points of the match to give USM the 3-1 victory.
Southern Miss is now 15-8 and 4-2 in conference play. USM continues conference play next Friday, when they travel to Boca Raton, Florida in a match up against Florida Atlantic at 6 p.m. The Golden Eagles finish up the weekend against Florida International on Sunday at 1 p.m.