HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- A trio of Golden Eagles tallied double-digit kills in helping Southern Miss battle back from a 2-1 deficit in taking a 3-2 decision (21-25, 25-21, 11-25, 25-17, 15-8) over FIU Friday night in Conference USA action.
"What a match," Head Coach Amanda Berkley said. "After the third set I just told our players we just needed to find a way to support each other, battle and pick each other up. Our energy was supper low after that third set. We just had to find some energy and we did."
Southern Miss improved to 18-6 overall and 5-2 in the league while FIU fell to 11-8 and 5-3.
"Kylie played really well," Berkley said. "She found lots of different shots tonight. Kelsey played one of her best matches. She had a good week of practice and it showed. Mary Pursell was all over the place on the back row. She was able to get keep the ball in play on several plays and gave up the opportunity to get some kills in transition."
Kylie Grant tallied a match-high 19 kills and Kelsey Chambers and Rachel Johnson added 14 kills apiece to lead the team offensively. Mary Pursell recorded her third 30-dig performance of the season with 31 digs to go with two aces. Grandy also added 13 digs for her ninth double-double. Sarah Bell tallied her 10th double-double with 50 assists and 11 digs.
The Golden Eagles finished 60 kills, 80 digs and 9.0 team blocks while FIU tallied 44 kills, 68 digs and 14.0 team blocks.
The teams played evenly for much of the first set until Southern Miss scored three straight points in gaining an 11-7 lead. Out of a timeout, FIU rallied to take the lead as the Panthers scored 12 of the next 16 points in pushing ahead 19-15. The Golden Eagles could not recover as FIU took the first set 25-21.
FIU ran out to a 5-1 lead to start the second set. Southern Miss battled back using an 8-4 run to tie the set at 9-9. The teams went back and forth before the home team was able to score four straight points to take a 20-18 lead. The Golden Eagles held on for the 25-21 win.
FIU sprinted out to a 9-1 lead and never looked back in cruising to a 25-11 win. FIU held Southern Miss to just seven kills on -.174 hitting.
The Panthers opened the fourth set scoring seven of the first 11 points. The Black and Gold regrouped behind strong performances from Chambers and Grandy to go ahead 11-9 against FIU. Out of a timeout, the teams battled to a 14-14 tie before Southern Miss scored six of the next seven points to take a 20-15 lead. Southern Miss finished the set with a 5-2 run for the 25-17 win and forcing a fifth set.
The teams traded points to start the final set that featured five ties and one lead change. With the score tied at 5-5, Southern Miss gain the momentum and scored four of the five points for a 9-6 lead. After a FIU timeout, Bell went to work and promptly put away a pair of kills to push the lead to 11-6. The Golden Eagles finished strong for a 15-8 win.
Jennifer Ene led FIU with 14 kills and nine total blocks while Lucia Castro added 10 kills. Adriana McLamb picked up 23 digs and Katie Friesen registered a double-double with 15 assists and 14 digs.
Southern Miss returns to the court on Sunday with a 1 p.m. first serve against Louisiana Tech.
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