The Ole Miss volleyball team fell to Memphis 2-3 yesterday (25-16, 21-25, 28-30, 25-20, 10-15) in a hotly contested match, snapping an eight-match winning streak and bringing the Rebels’ record to 9-2 overall.
“We knew coming in that this was a rivalry game and that it was going to be a tough match for us,” head coach Steven McRoberts said.
The Rebels picked up the first set 25-16 in what ended up being the most lopsided set of the match. After a back-and-forth start to the set in which senior Caitlin Wernentin had three kills in the first seven points, the Rebels looked like they would break away, before Memphis went on a 4-1 run to cut the lead to one point.
However, Ole Miss came back in a fury, ending the set on a 14-6 run to win 25-16. Sophomore Leah Mulkey recorded four kills on a .800 hitting percentage. Junior Emily Stroup had a quiet first set with two kills and four digs. Junior Nayo Warnell jumped out to a quick start, recording two important blocks that resulted in two kills.
In the second set, neither team could pull away as they played through astounding 15 ties and five lead changes. The largest lead of the set came after Memphis went on a 4-0 run to break a 20-20 tie. The Rebels then managed to get one point before dropping the set 21-25 on a service error by Stroup. Mulkey continued her strong performance with four more kills and two digs. Stroup began to pick up steam with four kills and four more digs.
The third set was a long and epic battle which resulted in a 28-30 loss for Ole Miss.
Early in the set, sophomore Lauren Bars went down with an apparent mouth laceration. As trainers tended to her on the court, a stunned silence fell over the crowd, only to be broken by thunderous applause when she was helped to her feet and back to the bench.
Play resumed after an extended timeout in which trainers continued to look at Bars’ face, calling for towels and ice packs. She didn’t return to the game.
Later in the set, Memphis managed a 22-20 lead before Ole Miss went on a short 3-1 run to tie the game at 23-23. Stroup then had a powerful ace, giving the Rebels a 24-23 lead and a chance to finish the set. However, a subsequent service error by Stroup set the tone for the rest of the set, as the Rebels mixed miraculous effort plays with key errors. This back-and-forth was punctuated by a service error by sophomore Bayleigh Scott that gave Memphis a 29-28 lead. A kill by Memphis’ Hannah Flowers gave the Tigers a win in the set.
Stroup, continuing her trend of growing stronger as games progress, recorded seven kills in the set. Mulkey was steadfast with four more kills, and senior Caroline Adams recorded seven important digs.
The Rebels looked more polished in the fourth set but trailed 16-17 before a Stroup kill
and back-to-back blocks from Scott and Wernentin led to a 19-17 advantage. The Tigers then
tied the set at 19-19 before Ole Miss finished on a dominant 6-1 run that was capped off by a kill by Mulkey to make it 25-20. Stroup had seven more kills in the set and cut down on errors, which allowed the Rebels to string together longer runs and force a deciding fifth set.
The Rebels looked tired and defeated in the fifth set, and Memphis quickly jumped out to
a 5-0 advantage. After appearing to go down 1-7, Ole Miss successfully challenged the ruling
that a Memphis player did not touch the ball before it landed out of bounds. This gave the Rebels new life, as they went on a 7-4 run, shrinking the Tigers’ lead to one point. However, Memphis responded with a run of its own, scoring six of the last seven points and capturing the set 15-10. Stroup poured in seven more kills in a vain effort, ending with a career-high 27.
“We’re disappointed with the result tonight. Memphis played really well. (They) made the points in some critical moments,” McRoberts said. “We just had too many errors … we’ve got to get over this fast. We’ve got three matches this weekend that we need to come out and play better (in).”
Providing a silver lining to an otherwise disappointing game, junior Jordan Fate recorded a career-high 46 assists. She also had an impressive 13 digs and was all over the floor in the final few sets.
The Rebels will play three games this weekend at the Rice Adidas Invitational II in Memphis.