Returning from a 10 game road trip without a win the Southern Miss Volleyball team (1-14, 0-2 CUSA) prepared to host Alabama State (4-16, 1-4 SWAC) in hopes of earning its first win of the season. To head coach Stephanie Radecki’s relief her team delivered.
“It has obviously been a really frustrating journey up until this point, so it feels really good to get a win,” Radecki said.
In set one, the Golden Eagles saw a swift 25-16 loss. Starting out, Southern Miss kept the score even by responding to each point Alabama State put on the board. After Alabama State jumped to a 12-9 lead, Southern Miss was unable to catch up. Southern Miss came back in set two with a 25-17 win. A kill by Kailee Tuisamatatele initiated a 7-1 run for the Golden Eagles. The Hornets were unable to catch up with a kill by Kess Krutsinger ending the set.
A narrow 25-21 win by Southern Miss kept momentum going in set three. Freshman Liana Guillemaud’s four kills were key to the Golden Eagles’ one-set lead. Alabama State responded with a last minute 25-21 victory in set four despite controversial calls.
“Set four was a difficult one for us. There was a missed call and it was a very obvious missed call,” Radecki said. “Anytime that happens, it is really difficult to get your team to focus back in especially with as difficult as the season has been.”
With the possibility of yet another loss looming, Southern Miss fought through to a 15-11 win in set five for a match win. Alabama State led the set until a service ace from Madison Lawler tied the score at 7-7. The Golden Eagles battled back from the tie with an additional ace from Lawler, a kill from Ashley Berry and back-to-back kills from Guillemaud. Two attack errors by Alabama State secured the Southern Miss victory.
“Going down early in the fifth and still being able to kind of slowly trickle back in that’s a big deal,” Radecki said. “I’m really excited they held their composure like that.”
Guillemaud led the Golden Eagles with 15 kills and had a .231 hitting percentage for the night. Piper Matsumoto had 45 assists, 15 digs and three total blocks. Matsumoto tied Lawler and Ashley Chapman for total service aces with three each.
“It’s definitely relieving [to win]. We’ve been waiting a while for it,” Matsumoto said. “It was a tough win, but it was good that we could work together to pull through for it.”
The Golden Eagles are now 1-14 with two conference losses to Marshall and Western Kentucky. Out of the last 14 games in the season 12 are conference matchups. The Golden Eagles have adjusted accordingly for such opponents.
“We have changed our lineup quite a bit, and I think we have settled into something that I think is working really well,” Radecki said. “We know that a lot of people are going to come off the bench and help us win, so that’s a huge benefit for us right now.”
With only two seniors on the roster and three out of six starters being freshmen, Radecki has spent her second season at Southern Miss rebuilding. Guillemaud as well as Gillian Hidalgo, Kess Krustinger and Lindsey Legg have all seen significant playing time for the Golden Eagles.
“It was hard [to lose 14 matches] because we know we are better than that, but also it’s hard that we have half the team that is new,” Guillemaud said. “We have to adapt and get used to each other. We know we are going to get better, but it’s a process.”
Southern Miss will continue in that process on Oct. 4 when they host C-USA opponent North Texas.