Freshman transfer soars in first season for Southern Miss Volleyball

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Photos/Charlie Luttrell and Austin Lindsey

While Southern Miss Volleyball has skidded to a six-game losing streak, the squad has flashed and had consistent performances throughout the season, including a standout year from freshman Mia Wesley.

The outside hitter has recorded 350 kills through her first 24 games at Southern Miss, landing her at No. 13 on the NCAA leaderboards for most kills in the 2021 season.

“She’s so competitive and focused,” Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said. “It’s really nice to have her on the floor. People like to play next to her and that’s what you want in a volleyball player.”

Wesley, an Orem, Utah native, played last year at the University of Portland, where she recorded 217 kills and a team-high of 12 service aces. With an extra year of eligibility, Wesley entered the transfer portal at the end of the season, looking for a new school.

After a two-hour phone conversation with Radecki, Wesley was sold on Southern Miss and packed her bags to make the 2,540-mile travel to Hattiesburg.

Hattiesburg wasn’t all unfamiliar to Wesley, though. She spent a summer in the city when she was 11 and her parents reaffirmed to her that she would fit in when she arrived.

“The transition has been great. Southern hospitality is such a real thing and people here are just so welcoming,” Wesley said. “My teammates have been super welcoming as well.”

WUSM 88.5 FM’s 4th Street Sports Show interviewed Mia Wesley Oct. 25.

Wesley emphasized her passion for volleyball and her intent to continue her career past college, following the footsteps of her father. Wesley’s father, Mekelli Wesley, played professional basketball in Europe and for Guam’s national team.

Like her father, Mia grew up playing basketball. She played mostly at center, utilizing her six-foot frame and high vertical. Soon, she realized her skill set would be transferrable to the sport she had yet to discover.

“Everyone in my family always played basketball so I did growing up too,” Wesley said. “I had an aunt who was like ‘hey, bring her to volleyball, she might really like it’. I immediately fell in love with the sport.”

While Wesley abandoned her basketball career, she says she still plays it with her brother as a source of conditioning for volleyball. Photo/Austin Lindsey

Wesley joked that her father initially was disappointed that she chose volleyball over basketball, but said he has supported her throughout her volleyball career.

“Both of my parents have been extremely good role models to me, especially my dad being a pro athlete. He definitely pushed me to pursue my athletic goals and when I started playing, I wanted to get a scholarship, and he pushed me to be my best in the sport.”

Wesley attributed her offseason regiment and drive for lifting to what she’s achieved this season, which she again draws from her family.

“I love lifting and I feel like that has a lot to do with my success,” Wesley said. “It’s my favorite part of the grind because you can go lift heavier and push yourself and I love maxing out. It’s part of my family too. I get up in the morning and lift with my dad and am always staying active…I feel like it’s just credit to the offseason and putting in the work.”

While the team has dropped eight of its ten conference matchups after a 4-0 start to the season, Wesley is hopeful for the program’s future and looks to close out the season strong.

“I feel like we are just on our way to greatness…we are going to the top,” Wesley said. “We are grinding as a team, everybody wants to get better and everybody’s competing. We have a lot of super competitive girls, which I really like and I’m just excited to see how far this team is going to go.”

Mia Wesley (middle) talks to setter Kenzie Smith and middle hitter Cara Atkinson after earning a point. Photo/Austin Lindsey

Wesley also said she plans to join other indoor teammates and play for Southern Miss Beach Volleyball in the future.

“I love beach volleyball. After this year, I’m definitely going to be playing both, which is super exciting,” Wesley said.