The Ole Miss volleyball team notched its 12th win of the season with a 3-2 victory against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon, giving the Rebels their best SEC start since 2010.
Ole Miss trailed the entire first set before conceding a final score of 25-22. It did, however, stay within striking distance throughout the set, despite Georgia’s incredible play and .375 hitting percentage. Ole Miss even had a chance to steal the set while down 23-22 before two clutch Georgia plays sealed the deal.
In the second set, Ole Miss came out firing and jumped to an early 11-2 lead, thanks to excellent blocking from sophomore middle hitter Nayo Warnell. The Bulldogs battled back, but the Rebels never fell behind again as they captured the second set 26-24.
“Going from the first set to the second set, we said that we don’t want to chase anymore. We want to be the one to lead the score,” senior hitter Kate Gibson said.
Ole Miss carried its momentum straight from the second set into the third as Georgia recovered from its shaky second. The set was tight from the get-go, but senior outside hitter Lexi Thompson and sophomore hitter Emily Stroup caught fire on the back end, helping the Rebels grab a 25-17 win and 2-1 advantage heading into the fourth.
The Rebels again took the court in form, but after building a 17-12 lead, Ole Miss fell into a lull, which gave Georgia just enough room to come back. Mistakes mounted, and though Stroup did her best to rally the Rebels, the Bulldogs capitalized on Ole Miss’ weak .030 hitting percentage and took the fourth set 25-22.
Ole Miss recovered in stride and only fell behind once in the shortened fifth set. Stroup, Thompson and senior hitter Kate Gibson remained cool and collected as the trio collected 12 kills and iced a 15-12 fifth-set victory.
“Coming together after that fourth set, we knew that it was our control the entire time and that we were going to control who won this and that we wanted to win,” Gibson said.
Stroup, who saw action in 21 games as a freshman, tied her career high with 25 points and recorded a double-double with 21 kills and 10 digs.
“I just wanted to give my best effort this game,” Stroup said.
Gibson and Thompson also secured double-doubles, giving them their 12th and 11th on the season, respectively, placing them on top of the SEC leaderboard. Freshman setter Lauren Bars recorded a double-double with 29 assists and 10 digs. Warnell added 11 blocks and seven kills (good for a .357 hitting percentage) of her own from the middle, helping Ole Miss leap to third place in the SEC.
“We feel really good about ourselves, but we’ll celebrate today,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “We have an off day tomorrow, and then we have to get back to work on Tuesday because at Arkansas, at Missouri are both going to be really, really tough matches.”