BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Southern Miss volleyball team rallied from a set down to defeat Florida Atlantic, 3-1 (15-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-23), to close out the regular season.
Southern Miss winners of four matches in its last five improved to 16-3 overall and 7-7 in Conference USA play while FAU dropped to 13-16 and 5-10.
Freshman Stephany Purdue and sophomore Quinci Hayward led a quartet of Golden Eagles with 14 kills apiece followed by junior Jasmine Crowell with 12 and sophomore Elise Ames adding 10. Junior Kristen Fleming divided out 46 assists as sophomore Mary Pursell picked up a match-high 20 digs.
"I am very proud of the way our team fought throughout this match," Coach Amanda Berkley said. "We did not play well in the first set, but the team came out in that second set and played with a lot of confidence. Every time we made a run, Florida Atlantic came right back. We were able to make plays late in the sets. This was a great team effort and a great way to end the regular season heading into the tournament."
FAU ran out to a 9-4 lead in the first set. The Owls kept the pressure on the Eagles in keeping the lead. Southern Miss took a timeout trailing 16-11 to slow down the FAU offense, but the timeout had little effect as FAU ended the set with a 9-4 run for the 25-15 win.
The second set featured 10 ties and three lead changes. Southern Miss opened the second set battling to a 14-8 lead before FAU countered with a 6-2 run to cut the lead to 16-14. Out of timeout, Ames put down a kill before FAU scored four straight points in taking an 18-17 lead. From there, the teams battled back and forth for the next seven points until the Golden Eagles got a pair of kills from Crowell and Hayward for the 23-21 lead. FAU responded with back-to-back kills to knot the score at 23-23. Out of the final Golden Eagle timeout, Southern Miss was able to score four of the final six points as Lydian Bonner and Crowell ended the set with kills for the 27-25 win.
Southern Miss opened the third set scoring 12 of the first 19 points in taking a 12-7 lead. The Golden Eagles continued to build on their lead, grabbing a 17-10 lead before FAU used a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 17-14. Purdue and Crowell put down a kill each to ignite a 4-2 run for the 21-16 lead. USM held on for the 25-20 win.
The teams battled back and forth throughout the fourth set for the first 34 points in for a 17-17 tie. The Golden Eagles got a Hayward kill and back-to-back service aces form Shelby Russell for the 20-17 lead. After Ames added a kill for the Eagles, FAU scored three straight points in cutting the lead to 21-20. Out of a Southern Miss timeout, the teams traded points before USM added three quick points for the 24-21 lead. FAU fought off a pair of match points before Crowell ended the match with a kill to give the Golden Eagles a 25-23 win.
Katrarina Stephanovic led FAU with 15 kills followed by Kristi Tekavec with 14. Nicole Unger collected 11 digs and Jelena Jovanovic handed out 45 assists.
Southern Miss' opponent for the Conference USA Tournament has yet to be determined.
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