Hayward and Purdue back to lead Golden Eagles


The Southern Miss volleyball team begins their season this weekend against several teams. Mercer, Southern and Nicholls State come to Hattiesburg for matches after a long
volleyball hiatus.

Last season, the Golden Eagles went 20-14 last season and struggled mightily on the road, going just 5-7 on the road while posting a 9-3 record
at home.

The Golden Eagles ended their 2014 season on a three-match losing streak, culminating in a loss in the Conference USA Championship Quarterfinals to North Texas, 3-1.

However, the Golden Eagles still return several key players from last year’s squad and will look to make the tournament again this year.

One of the those key players returns in the form of one of the most dangerous players in Conference USA, Quinci Hayward. Hayward had quite a season last year as she was named to the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Volleyball Classic all-tournament team. Later in the season, she became the 16th player in Southern Miss history to record over 1,000 kills.

Hayward will be a force up front as she was near the top on the team in total blocks last season with 43, while also tallying 368 kills.

However, despite Hayward’s blocking ability, head coach Amanda Berkley said as a whole, the team needs to improve on their blocking from what she saw in their scrimmage.

“I think we can build on defense still and control the ball just a little bit better,” Berkley said. “Blocking (could) definitely be an improvement, but overall we did some nice things and I’m excited about this weekend.”

Despite their blocking and defensive woes, Berkley said there were several things she was excited about.

“I think we learned that we have some energy,” Berkley said. “We had a lot of high energy plays.”

Also returning is the team leader in kills last season, Stephany Purdue. With 407 kills and 35 aces, Purdue was one of the most dangerous servers in the conference and is only
a junior.

Hayward and Purdue make a dynamic duo in the back and front that will be hard to match by other teams and the offense they provide is second to none in C-USA. However, the defense must improve in order for the Lady Eagles to make some noise in the conference.

With their top two players returning, the Golden Eagles will be a major force in conference play and could compete for the championship if their
defense improves.

They will likely be facing both North Texas and Western Kentucky again as well, who had a showdown in the semifinals last year and return many key members on their respective teams.

The Golden Eagles will get some much needed practice in before hitting conference play. USM will participate in three invitationals: the Bama Bash, the Rebel Classic and the Tiger Invitational.

The Golden Eagles start their season on Friday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. as they take on Mercer. Then they take on Southern and Nicholls State in a doubleheader on Saturday.