After playing just two games last fall, Southern Miss’s volleyball team launched its 2021 season in the Wellness Center with matches against Tulane and the University of New Orleans.
This weekend marked the end of a nearly five-month wait for the Golden Eagles. While volleyball is typically played entirely in the fall, Conference USA’s postponement left Southern Miss with extra time that the team utilized to train.
“We’re really lucky, so we’re grateful for our athletic training staff and our administration on how hard they worked to allow us opportunities to train while still being safe,” Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said. “Safety and health is the main priority, but we did get to do a lot of training which we wouldn’t normally get to do. We generally play so fast in the fall, so it was a really good time for our team having new players.”
After being able to play two games last year against Louisiana Tech, Radecki described the feeling of being able to play again with a complete schedule ahead.
“It was really fun to play and obviously to play at home in this new facility,” Radecki said. “We got a taste of it in the fall. It’s nice to compete again, it’s nice that there’s so many volleyball matches going on today because it’s been so long to happen, so it was great.”
Southern Miss began the weekend by losing its first game against Tulane in three sets. While the Golden Eagles did not claim a single set, the first two sets were only separated by a combined seven points. There were four lead changes in the first set and five in the second set, while Southern Miss only led once in the final set.
With 14 returning starters from a squad that led the American Athletic Conference in opponent hitting percentage in 2019, the Green Wave continued its defensive success by holding the Golden Eagles to a .067% successful hitting percentage.
Kinsley Hanback led the Golden Eagles with nine kills. Kenzie Smith, meanwhile, led both teams with 20 assists overall.
Though its games against Tulane were disappointing, Southern Miss made a turnaround and swept UNO.
The Golden Eagles jumped out to an early six-point lead in its first set, but the Privateers started to inch forward. However, Southern Miss finished out strong and won 25-19 thanks to a service ace from Duquesne Moratzka.
While the Golden Eagles did not trail once in its opening set, the team found itself in a deficit early into the second set. The Golden Eagles rallied together, though, Liana Guillemaud closed out the set with two kills on the last plays.
The third set was similarly contested throughout the beginning, but Southern Miss pushed forward with an unanswered attack that shot up the team 18-10. Lauren Talbert served six straight times for the Golden Eagles, the most of any player on the team during the weekend. Southern Miss rode its lead and Talbert ended the game with a kill.
Moratzka, Hanback and Guillemaudi each finished with double digits in kills. Senior Piper Matsumoto also recorded a double-double with 24 assists and a team-high of 13 digs. Overall, Southern Miss improved from its first game of the weekend to a .319% hitting percentage against the Privateers.
Southern Miss will stay home as it prepares to face its last non-conference opponents of the season next week. The Golden Eagles will play Nicholls State on Thursday and Southeastern Louisiana on Friday.