HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss volleyball team is set to host its annual Southern Miss Invitational, Aug. 29-30, to kick off the 2014 season in Reed Green Coliseum.
The tournament field include Alabama A&M, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Nicholls State.
First serve is set for 5 p.m. with Nicholls State against Alabama A&M followed Southern Miss and Jackson State at 7 p.m. Saturday's matchup for Southern Miss including Alabama A&M at 12:30 p.m., and Nicholls State at 6 p.m. Nicholls State will take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 10 a.m. and Alabama A&M will meet Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 3:30 p.m.
Head Coach Amanda Berkley enters her second season at the helm as she returns 13 letterwinners led by a junior Preseason All-Conference selection Quinci Hayward and a senior class of Jasmine Crowell, Alex Pfefferle, Kristen Fleming and Katie Steelman. Southern Miss finished with a 17-14 record last season, with a plus-nine turn-around. The Golden Eagles return 99 percent of their offense, 99 percent of their blocking and 98 percent of their digs. Hayward led the team in kills last season with 468 while Mary Pursell collected a team-best 546 digs. Fleming guided the offense as she averaged 11.28 assists per set. Also returning are juniors Elise Ames, Lydia Bonner and Rachel Johnson along with sophomores Stephany Purdue, Shelby Russell, Chanel Joyce and Makareta Rademakers. Berkley welcomes two newcomers in Kelsey Chambers and Natalie Druhan.
The Golden Eagles averaged 13.42 kills per set on .239 hitting and averaged 14.31 digs and 1.75 blocks per set.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff opens its 2014 season with a new head coach in Kyetta May. The Lions return eight letterwinners from last year's team that finished 12-22. Ashie Jones led the team with 258 kills while Ayanna Parker was next with 222. Jordan Foyer handed out 846 assists. Courtney Brand picked up 410 digs on the back row. As a team, the Lions averaged 10.25 kills per set on .133 hitting while averaging 12.8 digs and 1.4 blocks per set. This is the first meeting between Southern Miss and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Alabama A&M will face Nicholls State in its season-opener. Head Coach Rose Magers-Powell is in her first season at the helm. The Bulldogs return seven letterwinners from last year's team that finished 11-22. The top returnees include Savannah Blackiston and Kyanna Sales who recorded 262 and 225 kills, respectively. Southern Miss leads the series against Alabama A&M, 1-0.
Nicholls opens the 2014 season against Alabama A&M with second-year head coach Tommy Harold at the helm. The Colonels finished the 2013 season with a 5-23 record and returns nine letterwinners including all six starters. Kayla Bruling and Kayla Mashburn led the Colonels in kills with 340 and 302, respectively. Kaylnn Egea was the top digger with 402 while Alyse Barclay shared setting duties with Ainsley Marroccoli. Southern Miss leads the series against Nicholls, 32-14.
Following the Southern Miss Invitational, the Golden Eagles plays the first of 15 matches on the road when they travel to Troy for a 1 p.m. matchup on Sept. 1.
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