Southern Miss Volleyball returned to the Wellness Center Complex on Aug. 20 in an exhibition match against Mississippi State, previewing its team for the upcoming season.
The Lady Eagles kicked off the match by taking the first set 25-23 from the Lady Bulldogs, thanks to a block from Reagan Leinen and senior Kinsley Hanback. Southern Miss was only able to take the first set, however, as the Lady Bulldogs rallied for three consecutive sets at scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-22 to win the game 3-1.
Mississippi State was led by the performance and athleticism of senior Gabby Waden, who ended the game with 17 kills on a .444 hitting percentage.
On the other side of the net, one Golden Eagle standout was freshman transfer Mia Wesley, who ended the night with 15 kills and 11 digs.
“She’s a really good player, who’s impacting us on the outside and as a six rotation player,” Southern Miss Volleyball Head Coach Stephanie Radecki said.
Photos by Sean Smith
Radecki also said she believes most of the team’s newcomers will have a direct impact in their first year.
“Mia Wesley, (sophomore) Leinen is very powerful on the right and I think she can help us a lot, as well as (true freshman) Cara Atkinson. She played middle for us tonight[. Really] strong, athletic and gives us some height,” Radecki said.
Radecki went on to state her optimism for the upcoming season and the switch back to a fall schedule season.
“We were able to focus on a lot of things that we weren’t able to focus on last year[,] so it’s been really good,” Radecki said.
Senior Lauren Talbert played in the exhibition match as the team’s libero, which is an open position for the team after the loss of four-year veteran Madison Lawler.
“It [was] kind of a last-minute decision. She (Talbert) has led our team in passing stats all preseason and I felt like [she] deserved that opportunity tonight,” Radecki said.
Lawler led the team this past season with 303 digs, the second-most in the Conference USA division.
“We will take it day by day,” Radecki said. “Madi was a starter for me as libero since I came here as a head coach[,] so it’s a huge role to fill.”
Radecki noted that, despite the loss, the team has depth and energy on its bench, which will be vital for the upcoming season.
“I think the best thing is that we have some really big weapons on the bench that we didn’t even use tonight that I think are always going to be ready to help us be successful,” Radecki said. “Our bench had a great attitude tonight and a great personality and that’s so important with a sport like volleyball, a momentum sport where things can change so fast, so I’m excited about the depth of our team this year.”
The Lady Eagles officially open regular season play against Mississippi Valley State in the Wellness Center Complex next Friday, Aug. 27, at 3 pm in the Southern Miss Classic Invitational.