BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Golden Eagles began their Tiger Classic weekend with sweeps of Virginia (25-20, 25-17, 25-19) and UConn (25-22, 25-20, 25-21) on Friday inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Both teams were playing Southern Miss for the first time.
"It was a total team effort for this match," head coach Amanda Berkley said. "Stephany [Purdue] did a great job leading this team and we had a lot of players contribute offensively. We had a very balanced attack with three players in double-digit digs. We were just very effectively offensively."
Southern Miss will face off with host LSU at 1 p.m. CT Saturday. It's the first meeting between the teams since 2000.
The Golden Eagles came out of the locker room on fire as they sprang to early leads of 9-2 and 18-7. Stephany Purdue had five kills in that span and Kylie Grandy added a service ace. Things would remain the same at the end of the set, as Grandy scored three of the team's final four points on a pair of kills and a service ace that closed it out.
Southern Miss had a 12-8 lead in the second set before the Cavaliers called a timeout. Grandy bounced back from an reception error with a kill of her own, and soon after Southern Miss found itself still up 20-14. Makareta Rademakers took the ball and got the Golden Eagles to 23 with a service ace, and then an attack and ball handling error followed to finish the set.
The Golden Eagles led 8-2 and 18-9 in the third and final round. At one point, five consecutive points for the Gold and Black came from two Grandy aces and three Purdue kills.
Southern Miss (5-1) faced a stern challenge from UConn in the first set, leading 16-15. Catherine Repsher provided a couple of kills to give the team some breathing room, and Chanel Joyce slammed home two kills that got the Golden Eagles to set point. Her and Coombs then blocked the final UConn attack of the bout.
Three consecutive attack errors allowed Southern Miss to take a 7-2 lead in the second set. The lead ultimately stretched to 17-8, and kills by Grandy and Bell helped stave off the Huskies for the time being and expand the Golden Eagle advantage to 22-18.
A Jade Strawberry kill gave UConn a 7-5 lead in the third set, its first since the opener. Consecutive Grandy service aces and a kill by Purdue made it a 9-7 contest in favor of Southern Miss. A kill by Purdue and Repsher service ace got Southern Miss to match point, and Sarah Bell collected the game-winning point on a kill.
-UConn entered the match as the national leader in kills (17 per set). Southern Miss held the Huskies to 42 in the three.
-Southern Miss has five two-match shutout sweeps in tournament play under Amanda Berkley.
-Chanel Joyce's 11 kills against Virginia tied a career-high (set twice before). She also had 10 in the nightcap.
-Sarah Bell began the day No. 13 in the nation with 11.77 assists per set (second in the league). She had 66 in the two matches.
-Stephany Purdue padded her team lead with 29 kills in the two matches.
-Kylie Grandy has recorded a service ace in nine consecutive matches dating back to 2015.
-Team dig leaders in the two matches were Grandy (11 vs. Virginia) and Natalie Druhan (10 vs. UConn).
-Catherine Repsher's 10 kills gave her four double-digit performances on the year.
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