HATTIESBURG, Miss.--The Southern Miss volleyball team is gearing up for the 2014 Conference USA Championship set for Nov. 21-23 in Reed Green Coliseum.
Southern Miss enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed and will play No. 3 North Texas at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
The Golden Eagles are 20-13 overall and finished 9-7 in league play while North Texas is 21-9 and finished 11-5.
Action gets underway Friday at noon with No. 1 UTSA taking on No. 8 Charlotte followed by No. 4 Rice and No. 5 Marshall at 2 p.m. The even session features No. 2 Western Kentucky against No. 7 Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m. and No. 3 North Texas against host No. 6 Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Semifinal matches are set for 2 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, with the championship game set for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The Golden Eagles wrapped up the regular season losing four of their last five matches. Southern Miss owns a 20-13 record overall and finished with a 9-7 league record.
Southern Miss heads into the Conference Tournament as the No. 6 Seed for only the second time in the 17 times the league sponsored a tournament. The Golden Eagles have played in 15 of the 1 tournaments. In 2010 and 2011, the league did not have a tournament. In 2009, Southern Miss was the top seed after winning the regular season title.
Southern Miss has been seeded No. 9 seed three times; No. 6, No. 7, No. 8 and No. 11 two times; No. 1, No. 3, No. 5, No. 10 and No. 12 once. As the No. 6 seed, Southern Miss will face No. 3 North Texas. The Golden Eagles have faced former member Marquette four times, UAB three times, former members Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston two times each, former members DePaul, East Carolina, SMU, Tulane, USF once each as well as Rice, Charlotte, UTEP and UTSA one time each. Only once have the Golden Eagles reached the semifinals in 2009. Southern Miss had lost in the quarterfinals seven times.
Sophomore Stephany Purdue is tops on the team offensively, averaging 3.23 kills per set. Four other Golden Eagles have recorded over 200 kills, junior Quinci Hayward (362), senior Jasmine Crowell (344), juniors Elise Ames (218) and Lydia Bonner (218). Junior Mary Pursell leads the team in digs with 4.51 digs per set. Senior Kristen Fleming is guiding the offense averaging 9.63 assists per set.
Purdue leads the team with 34 service aces while Alex Pfefferle has 19, Crowell has 18 and Shelby Russell has 16. Pursell has 14 on the year.
Crowell and Ames are one-two in total blocks
Pursell was named the 2014 Libero of the Year
Pursell and Crowell were among the All-Conference honorees, earning first and second team all-conference accolades, respectively. Pursell, a Kenner, La., native was first in the league during C-USA action in digs per set (4.95). She has recorded double-digit digs in 27 matches included the last 23. Pursell tallied 20 or more digs in 11 matches including a 33-dig performance against Southeastern Louisiana. She finished with 14 aces on the season. Pursell joined the 1,000-dig club at Southern Miss after a 22-dig performance against Marshall. Crowell, a Gulf Breeze, Fla., native was fourth in the league in overall hitting percentage (.353) and finished league play averaging 3.93 points and 3.15 kills per set. She led the team in blocks and hitting percentage. Crowell recorded a career-high 25 kills against FIU and had a season-high 12 total blocks against Nicholls State. She needs only 10 kills to reach the 1,000-kill plateau.
A pair of Golden Eagles earned all-academic honors in Kristen Fleming and Mary Pursell. Fleming, a Columbus, Ga., native maintains a 3.82 GPA in speech pathology and audiology. She is one of five players to record over 3,000 career assists in Southern Miss history. On the season, Fleming is averaging 9.63 assists per set, but that mark improves to 11.23 against C-USA teams. She has recorded 11 aces and 254 digs. Fleming was named Setter of the Week once this season. Pursell, a Kenner, La., native carries a 3.81 GPA in accounting and ranks third in the league in digs per set (4.51). Against C-USA teams, Pursell leads the league 4.95 digs per set. She has 14 aces on the year. She recorded double-digit digs in 27 matches, including all 16 C-USA matches. She also recorded a season-high 33 digs against Southeastern Louisiana. Pursell earned C-USA Defensive Player of the Week once this season.
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