HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The Southern Miss volleyball team rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat a stubborn UTEP Miners in five sets 23-15, 31-33, 25-18, 25-18, 18-16 in Conference USA action Friday night.
Southern Miss, posting its 20th win of the season, improved to 20-7 overall and 7-3 in league play while UTEP dropped to 7-16, 1-8.
"This was a great team win for us," Head Coach Amanda Berkley said. "We found a way to pull this one out. UTEP played some great volleyball. They did a great job defensively at the net and on the back row."
Junior outside hitter Stephany Purdue led a quartet of Golden Eagles offensively with 21 kills to go with 15 digs while Elise Ames recorded 12 kills and Kelsey Chambers and Rachel Johnson added 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Mary Pursell registered her fourth 30-dig performance of the season, finishing with 30 digs. Sarah Bell added a double-double with 54 assists, 19 digs and seven kills. Kylie Grandy also picked up 17 digs.
The Golden Eagles finished with 68 kills, six aces, 101 digs and 10.0 team blocks.
UTEP held Southern Miss to just nine kills on .000 hitting in taking the first set. The Miners finished with 15 kills on a .111 hitting clip. The two teams battled to a 17-17 tie before the Miners added two consecutive points in taking a 19-17 lead. Out of the timeout, UTEP kept the momentum going, scoring three of the next five points. After a Southern Miss timeout, the Golden Eagles rallied to take a 23-22 after scoring four straight points. UTEP called a timeout and ended the set scoring the final three points for the 25-23 win.
The second set featured 18 ties but only six lead changes. The teams fought throughout the entire set. UTEP led by as many as seven points, but the home team scored four straight in cutting the lead to 18-15. Out of a timeout, the Golden Eagles continued to fight their way back into the set and eventually tie the set at 19-19. From there, the teams traded points down the stretch, fighting off set point and set point until UTEP managed to put together back-to-back kills in taking the second set 33-31.
Out of the intermission, the teams played evenly through the first 16 points. From there, Southern Miss used a 5-1 run in pushing out to a 13-9 lead. Out of the timeout, Southern Miss pushed the lead to 17-10, but UTEP countered by scoring three straight to cut the lead to 17-13. The Black and Gold finished strong to take the third set 25-18.
Southern Miss sprinted out to an 8-4 lead to start the fourth set. After UTEP's timeout, the Golden Eagles added a point before the Miners scored three straight to get the score to 14-10. UTEP eventually battled to within 17-15 before the Golden Eagles got three straight kills for a 20-15 lead. The teams traded points for five possessions before the Golden Eagles scored the final three points for a 25-18 win and forcing a fifth set.
The Golden Eagles scored six of the first eight points to start the fifth set in taking a 6-2 lead. UTEP was not to be outdone, battled back to cut the lead to 7-5. The teams traded a pair of points before Southern Miss got a kill from Grandy and an ace from Natalie Druhan for the 10-6 lead. Out of a timeout, UTEP scored three straight in forcing Southern Miss to take a timeout. UTEP tied the set, but the Eagles answered with a three consecutive kills in pushing the lead to 13-10. UTEP did not go quietly, as the Miners rallied to tie the set at 14-14. The teams traded points for the next four possessions before Ames and Johnson added back-to-back kills to end the set at 18-16 for Southern Miss.
Dalainee Perry and Ashley Grzebeniak led the Miners with 14 kills apiece while Kylie Baumgartner added 11 kills. Sarah Villa turned in a monster match, picking up 45 digs. Grzebeniak also had 15 digs while Lindsey Larson added a double-double with 38 assists and 11 sigs. Baumgartner recorded 10 blocks.
The Miners finished with 59 kills, five aces, 93 digs and 21.0 team blocks.
Southern Miss is back in action Sunday when the Golden Eagles host UAB in the Pink Match. First serve is set for 1 p.m.
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