SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The Southern Miss volleyball team had four players tally double-digit kills as the Golden Eagles upset the No. 3 seed Rice in 3-1 (17-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-19) in advancing to the semifinals of the Conference USA Championship.
Stephany Purdue led a quartet of Eagles with 14 kills, Rachel Johnson had 12 and Kylie Grandy and Elise Ames added 10 kills each. Sarah Bell finished with 45 assists and 15 digs while Grandy added 13 digs for a double-double. Mary Pursell picked up a match-high 19 digs. Ames also recorded six blocks.
Rice, the high seed, took the upper hand early by hitting .276 as a team to cruise to a 25-17 first set victory. However, disaster struck for the Owls in the second set.
Behind back-to-back Libero of the Year Mary Pursell, the Southern Miss defensive unit held the normally-prolific Rice offense to a negative .053 in the second set. The Golden Eagles sprinted out to an early lead and never looked back. Seven different players recorded a kill. Southern Miss took the set 25-15.
The Golden Eagles opened the third set scoring nine of the first 10 points. Southern Miss never trailed in the set. Rice fought back to cut the lead to 21-17 before Southern Miss closed out the set on a 4-1 run for the 25-18 win.
The Owls drew first blood thanks to a Portia Okafor kill to open the fourth set, but couldn't gather any additional momentum as Southern Miss closed out the victory, 25-19. The Golden Eagles finished the set with a .343 hitting clip.
Leah Mikesky led Rice with 14 kills and Chelsey Harris added 10. Mikesky also had 13 digs for a double-double, Shelby Livingstone picked up 14 digs. Madison McDaniel finished with 33 assists.
Southern Miss will face UTSA in the semifinals at 12 p.m.
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