HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The Golden Eagles' bid for a Southern Miss Invitational sweep fell just short on Saturday night with a 3-2 loss to Tulane (25-22, 26-24, 20-25, 25-27, 13-15). The home team did pick up a 3-0 win over Grambling in the early afternoon (25-11, 25-14, 25-15).
"They played great," head coach Amanda Berkley said of Tulane. "Their defense was unbelievable. Their libero dug everything. We did some good things with our momentum, but they just came out ahead in the end. It was loud in here, which was awesome. It was so great having our fans here supporting the team."
Stephany Purdue led the way with a match-high nine kills and seven digs. The Golden Eagles jumped out to an 8-1 lead, including back-to-back Purdue aces, and maintained it to 19-9. Kelsey Chambers registered three straight kills in that span as well.
The squad fell behind 3-0 in the second but eventually went up 8-6 on an Alexis Coombs kill. Southern Miss closed out a 12-3 run to give itself the two-set lead, with Dani Ajayi closing the door on a kill.
The third set began with a Molly Coughlan kill, the first of her career. Four of the Golden Eagles' six points in one span midway through the set came on service aces (two by Natalie Druhan, one each by Makareta Rademakers and Ashley Berry). Berry also served for the final six points, collecting a kill on the last one as well that clinched the afternoon.
The Green Wave scored the final five points in the fifth set to win, 15-13.
Southern Miss trailed 9-8 before rattling off seven straight points, including back-to-back Grandy service aces. Sarah Bell saved one of her six kills for the best time, concluding the 25-22 set win for the home team.
The second set also began close, and Catherine Repsher took advantage of back-to-back Tulane miscues to slam a kill home that made it an 18-13 Golden Eagle lead and force a Green Wave timeout. Southern Miss ultimately found itself down 21-20 before calling a timeout, and Purdue responded with a kill that tied it back up. Her and Repsher did the same at the end to preserve a 26-24 win.
Tulane scored five straight points in the third set that forced the Golden Eagles to reset down 12-9. Purdue later on had back-to-back kills from Bell that got Southern Miss within 22-19 as it looked for the sweep, but a Green Wave service ace and kill led to the 25-20 decision, extending the evening.
Southern Miss trailed 7-0 to start the next set, but Ashley Chapman's clutch service ace (the first of her career) made it a 10-10 contest. Tulane found itself back up 15-11, but the Golden Eagles again made it a major push to end the night when it went up 23-22 on a Druhan service ace, her second of the team's last seven points. Repsher's kill later on tied it at 25, but it would be the last number on the scoreboard for Southern Miss.
NEXT The Golden Eagles will open its Reed Green Coliseum tour on Tuesday night against Southern. First serve is set for 6 p.m.
-Southern Miss is 25-6 all-time in the Southern Miss Invitational. The Tulane contest was its third loss in 15 matches in the field.
-Morganne Jones made her collegiate debut, and Molly Coughlan's two kills against Grambling were the first of her career.
-The Golden Eagles posted 11 service aces against Grambling and Tulane.
-Stephany Purdue had four of those, tying a career-high, and her 22 kills were three away from one as well.
-Sarah Bell's 57 assists against Tulane tied a career-high (Oct. 1, 2015 at Charlotte).
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