MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Southern Miss volleyball team rallied from two sets down, sending the match to a fifth set, but fell short 3-2 to Mississippi State Friday afternoon in the Tiger Invitational.
This was the Golden Eagles first five-set loss this season as Southern Miss dropped to 12-2. Mississippi State improved to 8-3.
Stephany Purdue led the way with 16 kills. Mary Pursell picked up a match-high 20 digs. Sarah Bell had 40 assists to go with seven kills on 12 attempts, three aces and eight digs. As a team, the Golden Eagles finished with 52 kills on a .170 hitting clip, six aces, 54 digs and 6.0 team blocks.
The teams battled back and forth for the first 14 points, ending in a 7-7 tie. The Golden Eagles offense stalled as the Bulldogs ran off five straight points in taking a 12-7 lead. State eventually pushed its lead to 16-10 before the Golden Eagles got three points back in cutting the lead to 16-13. From there, State scores six of the next seven point in taking a 21-14 lead. The Bulldogs finished the set using a 4-2 run for the 25-26 win. Mississippi State held the Golden Eagles to just eight kills on a .062 hitting clip. The set featured seven ties and a pair of lead changes.
Mississippi State raced out to a 9-2 lead to start the second set. The Bulldogs kept the pressure on, getting timely kills, controlling the net and making some exception defensive plays. Mississippi State eventually pushed the lead to 18-11. Out of a Southern Miss timeout, the Golden Eagles shaved off a couple of points before State ended the set on an 8-3 run for the 25-18 win.
The Bulldogs scored 10 of the first 14 points in taking a 10-4 lead. Following a Southern Miss timeout, the Golden Eagles outscored the State 5-3 to get within 13-9. Out of a State timeout, Southern Miss continued its momentum and scored five straight points in taking a 14-13 lead. From there, the two teams battled back and forth until the Golden Eagles took advantage of a pair of Bulldog errors in gaining a 19-18 lead. Following a Bulldog timeout, Bell recorded back-to-back aces and Purdue put down a kill to increase the Eagles' lead to 22-18. The teams traded points for the next five points until Chanel Joyce put down a kill and Pursell ended the set with an ace for the 25-21 win.
Southern Miss jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Mississippi State used a 6-1 run in taking a 7-4 lead. From there, the Golden Eagles fought back to tie the set at 13-13. The teams began matching each other point for point before State used a big block and kill to gain a 19-16 lead. Out of a Southern Miss timeout, the Bulldogs tacked on a point with an ace. State was able to maintain the three-point advantage at 22-19 forcing Southern Miss to take its final timeout. The Golden Eagles found new life as Southern Miss scored the next three points for a 23-22 lead. State tied the set on a kill but Purdue and Bell put down back to back kills in forcing a fifth set with a 25-23 win.
In the final set, the teams went back and forth for the first 10 points. Untimely service errors proved to be costly for the Golden Eagles as Mississippi State took advantage in taking a two-point lead 7-5. Southern Miss cut the lead to 7-8 before the Bulldogs added a pair of points for a 10-7 lead. From there, the Bulldogs ended the set on a 5-1 run to seal the win 15-8.
Evie Grace Singleton posted 19 kills for the Bulldogs followed by Alex Warren with 13 and Jazmyne Johnson added 11. Blossom Sato had 49 assists and 13 digs. State finished the match with 59 kills on a .271 hitting clip, 11 aces, 51 digs and 10.0 team blocks.
Southern Miss returns to the court on Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Golden Eagles play host Memphis. The Eagles will conclude play against Austin Peay at 5 p.m.
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