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USM Volleyball sweeps Arkansas State

The Southern Miss Golden Eagle volleyball team (7-13, 2-7) faced the Arkansas State Red Wolves (12-9, 1-8) in Jonesboro, Arkansas on October 19th. The series opener turned out to be a night of mixed fortunes for the Golden Eagles as they dropped the first match in a three-set showdown at the First National Bank Arena.

Arkansas State secured their first conference sweep of the season, dominating with a .255 hitting percentage, in stark contrast to the Golden Eagles’ .100 clip. Despite the challenging loss, some notable performances stood out. Mia Wesley led the Southern Miss team with an impressive seven kills, showcasing her offensive prowess. Libero Megan Harris excelled in defense, tallying 14 digs for her 16th consecutive game with double-digit digs.

The first set saw Arkansas State jump to an early five-point lead, creating pressure for the Golden Eagles. However, Southern Miss displayed resilience, embarking on a four-point run. Junior Reagan Leinen contributed significantly with her third kill of the set, while Mia Wesley delivered two service aces, narrowing the gap. Nevertheless, the Red Wolves managed to maintain their advantage and secured the set at 25-20.

The second set posed another challenge for Southern Miss as they fought valiantly to recover from a deficit but couldn’t quite seize the lead, resulting in a dominant 25-14 victory for Arkansas State. The third set started on a positive note for Southern Miss as they surged ahead, scoring the first four points and forcing Arkansas State to call a timeout with an 8-2 deficit. Junior Ari Barksdale stood out during this period, contributing three blocks and a pair of kills. Despite their efforts, Arkansas State mounted a comeback, tying the game at 19 and securing the set with a score of 25-22.

On the second day of competition, Southern Miss orchestrated a thrilling reverse sweep against Arkansas State at the First National Bank Arena. This remarkable comeback marked the end of their recent three-game losing streak and represented a significant milestone, being their first reverse sweep since January 29, 2021, against Southeastern Louisiana.

Head coach Jenny Hazelwood expressed immense pride in her team’s unwavering determination. Despite recent confidence issues stemming from closely contested matches and narrow defeats, the players consciously decided to believe in themselves. The pivotal set saw Southern Miss trailing by three points, but they rallied with the fighting spirit. Junior Mia Wesley played a key role, delivering crucial plays that sealed the set and ignited the incredible comeback. Wesley delivered a remarkable season-high performance with 24 kills and also made significant defensive contributions, amassing seven digs and securing four total blocks. Notable contributions from players like Cailin Demps and Cara Atkinson added to the overall team effort. The fourth set was particularly intense as Southern Miss faced a deficit of up to seven points. Arkansas State appeared poised to close out the match, but Southern Miss staged a remarkable comeback. Libero Megan Harris played a pivotal role, registering two consecutive service aces, and Wesley’s critical block alongside Leinen further narrowed the gap. A sequence of mishaps from Arkansas State allowed Wesley and Demps to complete the astonishing comeback, securing a 25-22 victory in the fourth set.

Southern Miss sealed their remarkable comeback by claiming the fifth set with a 15-12 score, marking their first victory this season in a match extending beyond three sets. Coach Hazelwood expressed her delight in watching the team play the sport they love, emphasizing the importance of playing with a relaxed yet aggressive approach.

Looking ahead, the Golden Eagles will hit the road, traveling to Atlanta, Georgia, on October 27-28, where they will face Georgia State. This upcoming series promises to be another thrilling chapter in their season, and the team’s recent comeback victory has rejuvenated their confidence and determination as they strive for success in the Sun Belt Conference and beyond.

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