HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Southern Miss will look to enter Conference USA play next week on the highest note possible after competing in the Arkansas Invitational Friday and Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Golden Eagles will meet the host Razorbacks at noon on Friday before facing UMKC at 5 p.m. They will then close it out Saturday at 10 a.m. against No. 25 Kansas State.
The Golden Eagles have swept three of their last four opponents, with Tuesday's match coming at ULM. Southern Miss won with diversity, as four players had a team-high seven kills (including Ashley Berry, who was one off a career high). In fact, Southern Miss is the only team in C-USA to have three players record at least four double-doubles so far on the season (Stephany Purdue, Kylie Grandy, Sarah Bell).
Southern Miss as a team still leads the league in opponent hitting percentage (.151) while holding second in assists (12.64/set) and kills (13.7/set).
The 2015 team went 13-4 in non-conference play, building off 10 and 11-win showings in head coach Amanda Berkley's first two years at the helm, respectively.
Berkley has also seen Southern Miss go 33-14 in tournament play the last four years.
It is a truly new field for the Golden Eagles historically. They have never played UMKC and have seen Arkansas and Kansas State just a combined four times, with the last meetings coming in 2002 and 1993, respectively.
Arkansas is just 1-7 on the year, but has faced arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. It took No. 4 Kansas to a fifth set, winning the fourth 33-31. The Razorbacks have also taken on No. 1 Nebraska and No. 14 Illinois. The squad hasn't played since Saturday, defeating Montreal 3-1 in an exhibition match.
No. 25 Kansas State has a .251 hitting percentage on the year, just below Southern Miss' .256. Katie Brand also averages 11.57 assists per set. So far this season, the Wildcats have knocked off Hawaii, Arizona, Mississippi State and Creighton.
UMKC is 7-3 with five wins in its last six outings. The Kangaroos are hitting a solid .289 as a team. Alicia Harrington is the team's kill leader (107), and Emma Hagedorn has been equally impressive as seen by a .690 hitting percentage in one contest this year, including 21 kills.
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