MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Southern Miss volleyball team got strong performances from Quinci Hayward and Jasmine Crowell in helping the Golden Eagles out-dual UTEP 3-2 in the first round of the Conference USA Volleyball Tournament Thursday afternoon.
Southern Miss improved to 17-13 overall while UTEP falls to 14-14.
Hayward pounded down a career and tying school record 31 kills on a .367 hitting clip to go with four blocks. Jasmine Crowell finished with 19 kills on .361 hitting followed by Stephany Purdue with 14 kills and Elise Ames chipped in 13 kills. Kristen Fleming tallied a career-high 71 assists and a team-best 16 digs in recording a double-double. Mary Pursell added 15 digs.
Southern Miss out-hit, out-killed, out-served and out-dug the Miners. The Golden Eagles totaled 84 kills on .209 hitting, four aces and 68 digs. UTEP finished the match with 80 kills on .297 hitting, three aces, 56 digs and 14.5 team blocks. The Golden Eagles are now 8-4 all-time against UTEP.
The Golden Eagles put down 20 kills on a .559 hitting clip to take the opening set against UTEP. Neither team managed to develop a comfortable lead early. Finally with a 14-13 edge, Southern Miss embarked on a 6-0 run for a 19-13 advantage. UTEP clawed its way back to within three, 20-17, but Hayward and Ames added a trio of kills in pushing the lead to 23-19. The Golden Eagles recorded three of the final five points for the 25-22 win.
The two teams battled back and forth to start the second set. After a 3-3 tie, UTEP scored eight of next 11 points for an 11-7 lead. The Miners continued to control the set and kept at least a two-point for much of the set. Out of a timeout with the Miners leading 22-19, UTEP added a kill but the Golden Eagles answered with back-to-back kills to cut the lead to 23-21. UTEP added a point for the 24-21 lead when the Golden Eagles fought off a pair of set points before UTEP held on for the 25-23 win.
The third set featured 16 ties and four lead changes in a tight battle. Southern Miss held a slim lead, 15-13 before the Miners managed to tie the set at 16-16, but the Golden Eagles recovered enough to keep a two-point advantage at 21-19. UTEP quickly tied the set at 21-21 behind Xitlali Herrera's two kills. After an Eagle timeout, Southern Miss got a pair of kills and UTEP error in taking a 24-21 lead. The Miners did not go quietly as the Miners fought off four set points to take control and the lead 27-26. UTEP ended the set scoring three of the final five points to secure a 30-28 victory.
The fourth set started much like the third with UTEP taking the early lead. Southern Miss battled back to tie the set at 6-6. The Eagles then used a 6-3 run for a 12-9 lead. UTEP came right back as the teams battled to a 17-17 tie and forcing Southern Miss to take a timeout. The Eagles pushed ahead with a pair of kills from Crowell and Hayward, but UTEP matched that effort with a pair of kills from Taylor Nix and Malia Patterson. Southern Miss took a three-point advantage with a UTEP error, a Hayward kill and block for the 22-19 lead. UTEP knotted the set with as the Miners used a block and three kills in a 4-1 run. UTEP went ahead 24-23 forcing the Golden Eagles to fight off a series of set and match points. Southern Miss finally got a break in scoring two straight points for the 28-27 lead. UTEP tied the set before the Golden Eagles were able to score two of the final three points for a 31-29 win and forcing a fifth set.
Southern Miss opened the fifth with a 4-1 lead, but UTEP answered tying it at 4-4. The Eagles moved back ahead, 5-4 on an Ames/Lydia Bonner block before a UTEP kill tied it up at 5-5. A Purdue kills and Eagle block gave Southern Miss a 7-5 advantage, but the Miners came right back to tie the set 7-7 on a kill and USM error. The teams traded points for three possessions until the Golden Eagles got back-to-back kills from Crowell and Hayward for the 11-9 lead. The Eagles added an ace by Purdue for the 12-9 lead, but Herrera's kill and ace cut the lead to 12-11. After a Southern Miss timeout, Hayward closed out the set on three-straight kills for the 15-11 fifth set win.
Herrera led the Miners with 27 kills while Taylor Nix had 16, Talia Jones added 13 and Dominique Millette chipped in 11. Victoria Valencia picked up 21 digs. Herrera also tallied nine blocks.
Southern Miss will face the top seed UTSA at noon Friday.
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