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USM struggles in Georgia Tech tournament

USM senior Kristen Fleming tips the ball over the net during the eagle's scrimmage match in the Reed Green Coliseum in August. - Michael Kavitz
USM senior Kristen Fleming tips the ball over the net during the eagle’s scrimmage match in the Reed Green Coliseum in August. – Michael Kavitz

After a 3-0 sweep against Alabama A&M to open the Georgia Tech tournament, Southern Mississippi (11-6) dropped its next two matches against Georgia and
Georgia Tech.

Alabama A&M started off hot, jumping to a 3-1 lead.  USM fought back to take a 5-4 lead and never looked backed. USM went on a 9-0 run, ignited by Quinci Hayward after Makaerta Rademakers set Hayward up perfectly for the kill. Alabama A&M’s next point came off an attack error by Lydia Booner to make the score 13-5. Stephany Purdue showed how well she can control the ball with five kills during a run that ended the first set in a 25-16 victory.  

The second set saw a 13-6 USM lead dwindle to just three points, as Alabama A&M fought back and made the score 17-14. The comeback was fueled by five USM errors. The match came down to the wire. With USM up 23-19, Alabama A&M scored three straight points off of attack errors committed by the Golden Eagles, cutting the lead to one point.

The run forced the Golden Eagles to call a time out and straighten things up. Following the timeout, USM scored the final two points of the match to get a 25-22 victory. USM controlled the third set from start to finish, winning 25-13.

Jasmine Crowell, Hayward and Elise Ames had eight kills apiece. Mary Pursell came through for the Golden Eagles with 10 digs and Rademakers had 45 assists. The Golden Eagles also had six aces 47 digs and 49 kills on a .311 hitting clip.

Southern Miss opened up the second day of the tournament against the Georgia Bulldogs. USM battled the whole match, but fell short and lost 3-1 to the Bulldogs.

The first set was tight from first serve, as both teams tied six times before the Bulldogs jumped to a one point lead. Georgia held a two-point lead before USM put three straight points to take an 11-10 lead. Southern Miss found themselves ahead 23-21 late in the set, but the Bulldogs scored three points to put them up 24-23. Georgia went on to score two of the final three points to take the first set, 26-24. 

Georgia opened up hot in the second set, jumping to a 6-3 lead, but a 3-0 run gave Southern Miss a temporary 8-7 lead. The Golden Eagles held the lead, until a kill sparked a 3-0 Georgia run that gave the Bulldogs a 13-12 lead. Georgia did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the set, going on to take it 25-22.

With USM down 0-2 and desperately needing a win in set three to try and comeback in the match, the Golden Eagles were able to do just that. Southern Miss started slow, but finished the set strong. USM found themselves ahead 22-20 after Hayward made a powerful kill. Southern Miss finished the set scoring three of the final four points for the 25-21 victory.

The hard-fought battle continued in the fourth set. The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles went point-for-point, until Southern Miss got two straight kills to put them up 10-8. It looked like USM had the Bulldogs right where they wanted them, building a 20-16 lead, but Georgia did not lie down and scored three unanswered points to make it 20-19. The Bulldogs scored two of the final three points, including a block that would end the match with a 26-24 victory.

Georgia Tech was Southern Miss’ last opponent of the tournament.  USM found themselves trailing early, 12-8. The Golden Eagles kept the score close, but could not get up on the scoreboard and Georgia Tech would march to a 25-20 set

Set two was another nail-biter for the Golden Eagles. Following a 10-10 tie, Georgia Tech got comfortable and went on a 6-1 run putting them up 16-11. USM fought back, but it was too little, too late as Georgia Tech took the second set 25-21.

Georgia Tech fed off the momentum from the set two victory, scoring first in the third set. USM did not lead at any point in set three. The score was 16-15 when Georgia Tech scored four of the next five points to give them a 20-16 lead. Georgia Tech won on two Southern Miss errors. Georgia Tech got the sweep, winning set three 25-19.

Southern Miss will look to get back to their winning ways when they open up conference play, traveling to Louisiana Tech, Monday Sept. 22.

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USM struggles in Georgia Tech tournament