The Ole Miss Volleyball team played two games this weekend, losing at Arkansas on Friday before snapping a four match losing streak with a win over LSU at home on Sunday.
The Rebels lost to Arkansas 2-3 Friday night (26-24, 25-22, 22-25, 19-25, 13-15), extending their losing streak to four straight to begin conference play. After taking the first two sets, Ole Miss dropped three straight, including a heartbreaking fifth set that went the distance.
Junior Emily Stroup led the team with 20 kills on a .129 hitting percentage. Stroup also had 22 digs and two blocks. Senior Caitlin Wernentin recorded a then-career high 17 kills on a .333 clip, contributing four digs and three blocks as well.
“We lost a heartbreaker on Friday night,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “(It was) a three-hour match and both teams had been struggling up to that point.”
The Rebels snapped their losing streak on Sunday afternoon, getting their first SEC win of the season in a 3-2 victory over LSU (22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 16-14). In an emotional game in which both teams were seeking their first SEC win, the Rebs barely edged out the Tigers, with the two teams being very evenly matched.
Ole Miss came out swinging in the first set, gaining an 11-6 advantage early before LSU fought its way back into the match, tying the game at 18-18 after an attack error by sophomore Lauren Bars. After battling back and forth LSU went on a short 3-0 run to take a 24-21 lead, eventually taking the set 25-22.
The second set went the other way entirely, as LSU took the early advantage before an 11-3 run from Ole Miss gave the Rebs a 24-21 lead. Stroup recorded four kills during this run, willing the Rebels to a 25-22 set win, evening the match at one set apiece.
The third set was even closer, as neither team was able to pull away in a back and forth battle. There were 12 ties and three lead changes, and neither team managed to lead by more than two as the teams drew even at 20-20. LSU then finally pulled away, scoring four straight to take a 24-20 edge. After ceding a point on a service error, the Tigers closed out the set 25-21 and took a 2-1 advantage in the match.
The fourth set was also close, but the Rebels’ ability to score at pivotal moments helped them along the way. The set was tied at 15-15 before a 3-0 run by Ole Miss, countered by a 3-0 run by LSU tied the game back up at 18-18. In a key point, a kill by Wernentin gave the Rebs the advantage, and they did not relinquish their lead from that point on. A Stroup kill gave the Rebels the set at 25-21, and paved the way for a winner-take-all fifth set.
The fifth set was as close as possible, with an astounding 13 ties and five lead changes in a first-to-fifteen set. LSU’s early 3-1 lead proved to be the largest lead of the set, and after trading points for the entire set, the Rebels came out on top with a 16-14 win, clinching the match three sets to two.
Stroup recorded a career-high 30 kills on an impressive .313 clip, also contributing 24 digs, one block, one assist, and two aces.
“I think we all were pretty confident, we had a really good week of practice,” Stroup said. “(This win) gives us a lot of confidence just knowing we finally put it together and could get the win.”
Wernentin posted a new career high with 21 kills on a .300 clip, and shined in pivotal moments, especially later in the match. She recorded five digs and two blocks.
“I was feeling good, the game against Arkansas I hit a career high of 17, and that was a huge confidence booster. Coming into this game I already had a whole bunch of confidence,” Wernentin said. “I just went after it, played with no fear of mistakes or anything and it came out to be the best thing for me.”
Bars also posted a career high, recording an astonishing 51 assists to go along with two kills, five digs and two blocks.
“I was really confident, we’ve been practicing all week and I believe in our team even though we were 0-3 (before this weekend), I knew we were going to come out really strong,” Bars said.
The Rebels will look to build on this momentum next weekend, when they will play Missouri at home on Friday before travelling to Lexington to take on No. 18 Kentucky on Sunday.
“I think that this game going forward is going to be the ‘click’ moment,” assistant coach Tori Plugge said. “We did a lot of really good things as a team, so to be able to battle like that and finally come out on top is going to be such a confidence booster for our team moving forward.”