“I told the team I feel like we just played better (than last night),” head coach Steven McRoberts said after the team’s four set win (25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 26-24) against South Alabama.
After falling to the Jaguars in five sets the night before, Ole Miss rebounded on Saturday with a solid four set win, largely due to tremendous play from the outside hitters. Sophomore Emily Stroup led the way and was one kill away from tying her personal best of 21.
“A lot of those kills were at big time moments, which is nice to see before we head on to SEC play,” McRoberts said. “Just a monster of a match, that she can step on that stage, and it shows that she has a lot ahead of her this season.”
In their Friday loss, the Rebels had multiple opportunities to put the game away with two match points late, but failed to seize the opportunity, creating fuel for the next day’s win.
“Losing in five sets made me really mad,” Stroup said. “It made me want to come out with my team and swing more aggressively. I knew that we needed to play together more and that we needed the win.”
Stroup may have had an incredible game with 20 kills on a .432 percentage, but senior Lexi Thompson managed to find kill No. 1,200 of her career, and her consistency drew a lot of attention away from Stroup.
“She is the type of player that you never have to worry about her type of play or level of effort,” McRoberts said. “It shows her longevity of her career in getting that record, and we are really proud for her. (Other coaches) already know she is an integral part of our offense and has been for the last three years. They will see she is a key contributor like she has been.”
For Thompson, however, it is a “cool” accomplishment, but it was not what she set out to do coming into college.
“I think my family is more excited about it than I am,” Thompson said. “It shows that I have had good teammates since the start of my career here. Volleyball is a team sport, and if you set individual goals, you aren’t going to make it anywhere and you’re not going to have good relationships with your teammates because your goal should be winning the point.”
Libero Caroline Adams has also been a leader on the court this year as a junior, helping teammates achieve a common goal – winning.
“Last year, I was super quiet,” Adams said. “My goal this year was to be more emotionally involved. I think it helps the team when we are down when someone comes jumping into the huddle giving us energy. I think we are naturally an emotional team, and it just adds fuel to the fire.”
The Rebels hold onto a 9-4 record before heading into SEC play Friday with a home game against Auburn.