Photos by: Austin Lindsey and Charlie Luttrell
Southern Miss Volleyball looked to regroup after a pair of road losses, but skidded to a four-game losing streak after dropping a home series against the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
The Golden Eagles came into the weekend having only lost one game at home, but left the Wellness Center Complex with a 9-3 regular and a 2-6 conference record.
In the first match of the weekend, the Miners defeated the Eagles 3-1. UTEP took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-22.
In the third set, the Golden Eagles regrouped to win the set 25-23 in another set down to the wire but the Miners closed the game in the fourth set 25-16.
In a losing effort, the Southern Miss’ outside hitter Mia Wesley broke her Southern Miss career-high in kills with 25. Wesley finished the night with a .333 hitting percentage and ten digs to add to her stat sheet.
As a team, UTEP limited Southern Miss to a .152 hitting percentage as the Golden Eagles had 28 attack errors on the night. On the other hand, the Miners hit for .336 and blocked 11 attacks from Southern Miss.
Southern Miss fought to the end in the second game, forcing a fifth set, but the Miners prevailed.
UTEP’s Serena Patterson led the way for the Miners with 25 kills on a .449 hitting percentage as Wesley again broke her Southern Miss career-high 29 kills in the Saturday match. Wesley’s all-time career high is 30 kills in her time at Portland.
In the first set, the Golden Eagles started hot on an eight-point rally at 24-18 but the Miners did not settle down as they went on a six-point rally to force six setpoints for the Golden Eagles. The set would go into extras as either team needed a two-point lead to win. The Miners rode its hot streak to close out the set on an ace by Alyssa Sianez at 28-26.
“We couldn’t just put the ball away and gave them too many opportunities to come back at us,” Southern Miss Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said. “Anytime you’re playing a good team that’s going to happen if you don’t put the ball away.”
In the second set, the Golden Eagles took control of the set to win 25-15 on a Lauren Talbert spike to center court, but couldn’t pull away with the third set. The Miners flipped the script in the third with a 25-16 win.
In the 4th, Mia Wesley seized the set with her play to force a set point at 24-22. In the next play, the Golden Eagles took care of business on a UTEP’s Serena Patterson error at 25-22. This led to a crucial fifth set.
In a race to 15 in the fifth set, Southern Miss took an early 3-1 lead on another Miners error but UTEP rebounded and put together a six-point rally. The Golden Eagles finally broke the rally but Ema Uskokovic called the game at 15-9.
“They were a little too much for us in the fifth set but I do think we showed guts and grit today and just wished we would have finished that fifth set,” said Radecki.
The Golden Eagles now face the 11-5 Rice Owls in Houston, Texas next weekend. Southern Miss is currently 0-6 on the road.
Southern Miss will have to move forward without starting senior outside hitter Duquesne Moratzka, who Radecki confirmed is out for the season after needing surgery for an injury. Moratzka had 176 kills on a .200 hitting percentage and a total of 210 points on the season.