The Southern Miss beach volleyball team (2-7, 0-2 CCSA) hosted Tulane in the Mardi Gras Challenge on Tuesday, March 5. The day was a day of firsts for the beach volleyball program, as the team hosted its inaugural home match and first conference match in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association.
However, Tulane won the day with back-to-back 4-1 team wins. Despite the loss, Southern Miss experienced a crowd of over 150 fans, something head coach Stephanie Radecki called a welcoming sight for the new program.
“A huge positive was just the amount of people who came out to support the program,” Radecki said. “Hosting our first event with our first season. It was great to see the amount of people who came out to support the girls and were involved in the event, they just didn’t sit and watch. I think another positive is that we were really competitive today versus a really strong program that just has a lot more veterans on the court. If we can keep moving forward and getting better than we can do some really good things for Southern Miss athletics.”
Olivia Hepworth and Breleigh Favre earned the first ever home win for the program in the first match of the day. Favre and Hepworth defeated Tulane’s No. 4 pair in two sets 21-14, 21-10.
“It was awesome because so many people came out,” Hepworth said. “I was really surprised with how many people came to support. To hear everyone cheering us on and be able to execute and finish the game and get that first win against Tulane because they are a good team.”
Favre also talked about her performance with Hepworth on the sand.
“I think we were executing really well and we were on the same page every play,” Favre said. “We were focused but we were relaxed and not timid. We were going for our shots and making our serves. It was awesome especially the first ever home win and against Tulane so that was really cool because they are a really good team”
The No.2 pair of Abbey Wilson and Cyan Blackdeer forced three sets against Tulane but lost 16-21, 21-18, 17-15. In the rest of the first match, the duo of Kylie Grandy and Lindsey Legg lost in two sets 21-17, 21-15. Piper Matsumoto and Kellie Garraway were defeated also defeated in two sets 21-14, 21-10. Jessica Austin and Lindsey Smith were defeated 21-12, 21-10.
In the second match of the day, Blackdeer and Wilson were able to avenge their earlier loss in a narrow two-set win 22-20, 23-21. The win moves the pair to 6-3 on the season, and the duo now leads the team in wins.
“We just do really well when we talk to each other a lot, especially with what we want to do and when were super positive that’s when we play our best, but we just knew what shots we needed to hit,” Blackdeer said. “We knew we did not want to go to a third game so we just wanted to do everything we can. All we got to do is get these last few points just so we can finish it out and get the win for us.”
Austin and Smith lost in a three-set match 21-18, 22-24, 15-11 to drop to 1-4. Hepworth and Favre lost 22-20, 21-11 and moved their record to 3-6. Grandy and Legg fell to 22-20, 21-17 and dropped to 3-6 as a pair. Matsumoto and Garraway were defeated 22-20, 21-17 and move to 4-5 overall.
Southern Miss will travel Gulf Shores on March 8 to compete in the March to May tournament hosted by UAB.