Written by: Charles Arnold and Austin Lindsey
Photos by: Sean Smith
Southern Miss swept UTSA for the first time in program history in its two-game home series against the Roadrunners.
Southern Miss Volleyball took both games in three sets, preventing UTSA from taking a single set. With the win, the Golden Eagles improved to a 9-1 record at home on the season.
Southern Miss’s first win snapped a three-game losing streak over the past week for the Golden Eagles.
In addition, the victories marked only the second time in program history that the Golden Eagles have defeated the Roadrunners and the first time in a sweep. The Roadrunners, up until last season, had an eight-season long winning streak when playing the Golden Eagles.
“We are really excited to get back-to-back conference wins in six straight sets versus a traditionally strong program,” Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said. “I’m proud of the girls’ focus physically and mentally in a really successful weekend.”
While the 3-0 score suggested separation, UTSA fought throughout, especially as the night progressed. The Roadrunners scored more points each set, totaling 13 points in set one, 19 points in set two and 24 in set three.
However, Southern Miss kept momentum throughout the game. Mia Wesley and Cara Atkinson led the way in scoring with four kills each in the first set. Wesley led the team in the match with 15 kills.
Kenzie Smith lead the team with assists this set, putting up 13 of the team’s 15 assists. Smith finished the match with 34 assists.
The team hit just shy of a third of their attacks at 0.322 hit% as the team fired on all cylinders.
The team’s overall defensive leaders were Cara Atkinson and Duquesne Moratzka with 2 assisted blocks each and team libero Aliah Giroux with 15 digs followed by Moratzka with 12, Smith with 11 and Wesley with 10.
Wesley continued her attack, netting eight kills in the second set, leading the Golden Eagles to take the frame 25-19.
Kinsey Hanback made an impact in the third set with five of her eight kills coming in the set.
UTSA gave the Eagles everything it had in the third set, leading to an extended finish with a final score of 26-24.
“Two good teams are playing, it’s never going to be a straight wash,” Radecki said after the game. “It’s all about mentality and being focused…we knew they were going to push back and the only thing that matters is [us] responding and I feel like we did that.”
The Golden Eagle hosted the Roadrunners for its second match of the weekend on Saturday at noon and again, swept the Roadrunners in three sets.
Outside Hitters, Wesley and Moratzka led the Golden Eagles in kills at 11 apiece. Wesley also hit an efficient .455% for the match on attacks and led in digs with 16.
“She’s so competitive, and focused, said Head Coach Stephanie Radecki. It’s really nice to have her on the floor. People like to play next to her and that’s what you want in a volleyball player.”
After a slow start to the set, Southern Miss tallied six points to jump ahead 13-7. Liana Guillemaud kept the run going after she sent a spike to center court. After a UTSA error at 19-12, the Roadrunners called its second timeout of the match.
At 21-13, the Golden Eagles took an eight-point lead after a classic drop-in dime by Smith. To end, Aliah Giroux closed with 3 aces to take the set 25-14.
Starting the second set, the Golden Eagles rallied across the net versus UTSA that ended with a UTSA point at 4-4. After another length rally, Wesley spiked a kill at 10-7. The Roadrunners did not let the Golden Eagles pull away though, after rallying off four straight to take the lead at 11-10.
Out of a media timeout, Southern Miss got rolling on an 18-14 lead after a kill by Mia Wesley. After a drop in kill over the net by Moratzka, the Golden Eagles led 23-17. Southern Miss soon took the set 25-19 on an error from UTSA.
Through the second set, Wesley led the Golden Eagles with 9 kills. Moratzka led in points with 11.5 [8 kills and 3 blocks]. Cara Atkinson and Hanback tied Duquesne Moratzka for 3 blocks.
UTSA jumped ahead in the third set 5-4 after an ace. The set would stay close at 10-10 after and a service error by Smith.
However, the Golden Eagles rallied off five straight points into a media timeout at 15-10. Wesley received an ace at 17-10 to keep the rally alive for the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles’ rally ended at ten after a ricocheting kill by UTSA’s Biance Ejesieme at 20-11 but on the fourth match point, Southern Miss took the game on a block by Smith to win 25-16.
After losing the first 10 matches versus UTSA, Southern Miss has won the last three matchups spanning from March 15, 2021.
Now 10-8, Southern Miss travels to Denton, Texas next weekend to take on the North Texas Mean Green (8-7).