FIU volleyball downs Southern Miss, heads to C-USA Championship

The FIU volleyball team defeated Southern Miss Saturday 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 25-18) in the semifinal round of the Conference USA tournament at the Cam Henderson Center.

With the win, FIU advanced to the championship match against Rice Sunday at noon. FIU head coach Rita Buck-Crockett said she’s proud of the way her team played.

“My hat’s off to them for pushing and going hard and getting into the finals,” Buck-Crockett said. “We really had to earn it.”

FIU led 2 sets to none going into the third set, but Southern Miss fought back in the set and took the 8-5 lead after three FIU errors. Southern Miss maintained that lead and took the third set 20-25.

“We got quiet in that third game and you could see our intensity drop off,” Buck-Crockett said.

FIU started the fourth set with the lead but lost it on a Southern Miss five-point run, which gave the Golden Eagles a 6-3 lead. FIU had two different four-point runs that helped it reestablish the lead and pull away from the Panthers.

“We lost the fear to lose and we got the will to win again,” Buck-Crockett said.”

Senior Marghertia Bianchin was a standout hitter for the Panthers and she had 11 kills in the fourth set alone.

“Sometimes, it is good to spread the ball for the hitters,” Bianchin said.

For the Panthers, Bianchin had total 22 kills and senior outside Nina Petranovic had 16. FIU redshirt junior Lina Bernier had 15 digs and freshman setter Abbie Hughes had 47 assists.

For the Golden Eagles, senior outside Kylie Grady led the team with 16 kills and senior setter Sarah Bell had 35 assists.

“We have to come in knowing that they can beat us if we don’t beat them,” Buck Crockett said. “These guys don’t like to lose, we just have to worry about our side and take every point we can get.”

Sydney Shelton can be contacted at [email protected]