Southern Miss struggled over the weekend, losing both conference matchups against Rice (3-0) and Middle Tennessee State (3-1) to fall to 12-8 and 1-2 in Conference USA.
While the Golden Eagles dropped all three matches to the Owls, they were not dominated by any means. The match was tied 15 different times and the two teams traded the lead five times before Rice pulled away for the 26-24 win.
The second and third sets were much of the same story as Rice narrowly won the sets 25-23 and 25-22, respectively. Through the two sets, there were 12 tied scores and eight lead changes as the two teams were evenly matched.
Quinci Hayward led the way for the Golden Eagles with 13 kills and 14 total points. Kristen Fleming was excellent in setting up her team for scoring opportunities as she recorded 25 assists.
Rice had three players reach double digits in kills with Chelsey Harris and Leah Mikesky leading the way with 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Sara Blasier was excellent for the Owls as well, posting 40 assists, five digs and four kills.
Rice’s biggest advantage was their offensive efficiency as they hit at a .263 clip compared to .169 for USM. They also had 11 more kills than the Golden Eagles.
In the first set against MTSU, the Golden Eagles struggled mightily, losing 25-14. It started off pretty even with the teams knotted up at 9-9, but the Blue Raiders went on a 16-5 run to close it out.
However, USM rallied back in the second set and captured the momentum. USM used a 17-7 run en route to a convincing 25-17 victory. But the momentum did not last long as the Blue Raiders dominated the third set, winning 25-14.
The fourth set was easily the most entertaining set of the match as the game came down to the wire. USM was playing their game in the early going and led 16-12, but MTSU was able to flip a switch and turn up the pressure with a 6-0 run, aided by four USM attack errors.
Both teams battled from then on, but MTSU never gave up the lead and won 25-22.
The Golden Eagles’ struggles were directly linked to their efficiency issues. They committed 32 errors compared to just 16 by the Blue Raiders. MTSU also outhit USM .306 to .113.
Hayward and Jasmine Crowell each had 11 kills for the Golden Eagles while Fleming chipped in 35 assists. Monet Marshall dominated for the Blue Raiders with 16 kills and 22 total points.
Southern Miss will look to get back on track Friday when they host Charlotte (12-7, 1-1) to resume conference play.