Southern Miss volleyball upsets WKU after five-set battle

Seventh seed Southern Miss pulled off a five-set comeback (20-25, 15-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-11) Friday over No. 2 Western Kentucky in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA volleyball tournament.

With the win, Southern Miss advances to the semifinal match against FIU Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“I’m just really excited (and) proud of our team,” Southern Miss head volleyball coach Stephanie Radecki said. “We talked all year about our journey being very unique. We were in a lot of five set matches this year and fell a little short and we were really excited to be prepared for this five-set match.”

After losing the first two sets, 20-25 and 15-25 Southern Miss turned the momentum around and won the next three sets to win the match 3-2.

“The one consistent thing is that it’s a battle,” Radecki said. “It is a marathon, not a sprint. There is a lot of volleyball left to be played, we started to execute those opportunities and that made a big difference.”

In the third set, Southern Miss took the lead early and maintained it through the entirety of the set. Southern Miss jumped out to a 3-0 lead sparked by a kill by junior Ashley Berry and two service aces from sophomore defensive specialist Madison Lawler. The Golden Eagles had a four-point run shortly after, with a Berry kill and three WKU errors and took a 7-2 lead.  The Golden Eagles went on a 5-1 run to end the set with a win, partly attributed to four Hilltopper errors and a senior middle Alexis Coombs kill.

A Berry kill and six WKU errors gave Southern Miss an initial 7-1 lead in the fourth set. WKU responded with a six-point run to tie the set at 19 but never took the lead. Southern Miss won the set, 25-20, after kills by Berry and senior outside hitter Kylie Grady.

In the fifth set, Southern Miss went on three different scoring runs and took an 11-4 with kills from Grady, Berry and sophomore outside Chandler Marshall. Although WKU creeped back into the set, Southern Miss took the set 15-11 to win the match.

“I think this team is very talented,” Radecki said. “We have had the talent all year, I do feel like we’ve fell short a lot of times where we thought we should have won matches versus very strong teams.”

For the Golden Eagles, Grady led the team 15 kills and Berry had 14.  The team also finished with 10 aces, five from Lawler, four from Grady and one from junior middle Catherine Repsher.  Senior setter Sarah Bell led the team in assists with 45.

For the Hilltoppers, freshman middle Lauren Matthews led with 18 followed by junior outside Sophia Cerino with 12, she also had four aces. Senior setter Mary Martin had 41 assists.

Sydney Shelton can be contacted at [email protected]