Ole Miss volleyball hopes to build on last year’s streaky, and ultimately disappointing, season.
The Rebels take the court once again at 11 a.m. Friday morning for a match against Louisiana Tech and then again at 6 p.m. for a match with North Dakota. Both face-offs will take place at the newly renovated Gillom Sports Center.
The Rebels return to Gillom – complete with an array of amenities, including a new locker room, team area, weight facility and video theater – after spending last season at the Pavilion.
Led by senior Lexi Thompson, who boasted a Southeastern Conference-best 21 double-doubles and a team-best 487.5 points last season, the Rebels look to improve on last year’s 6-12 conference record. Steven McRoberts, head coach of the Ole Miss volleyball team, has worked hard throughout the offseason, preparing his team for the rigor of SEC play.
The roster this season returns nine players and three starters from last year, including Thompson and Kate Gibson, outside hitters who grabbed their 1,000th kills last season and are just shy of reaching the 1,000/1,000 club for kills and digs. Thompson, at 6-feet-1-inch tall, and Gibson, at 6-foot, represent legitimate net threats that Louisiana and North Dakota will need to monitor.
Fellow veteran Nayo Warnell started 29 of 31 matches last season and was lethal at middle blocker, recording seven blocks against Louisiana State University on her way to 82 total on the year. Warnell should be a handful for Louisiana Tech and North Dakota on Friday.
Jordan Fate will replace Aubrey Edie on the court, who graduated as the all-time record-holder for assists at Ole Miss. Fate, who was an Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American last year, hopes to fill Edie’s big shoes. Despite only playing seven matches last season, Fate will look to use this weekend’s games to find her place in the team and build necessary chemistry.
After starting last season strong with seven straight wins, the Rebels failed to string together any kind of win streak against SEC opponents. But with strong senior leadership this year from Thompson and Gibson, Ole Miss fans are hoping for a hot start that continues into the bulk of the regular season.
A new stadium and plenty of dangerous offensive pieces in play guarantee Friday’s games are sure to entertain. Thompson, Fate and Gibson will look to strike early and often, setting the tone from the first point.
Further down the line, Ole Miss will enter SEC play with a home contest Sept. 22 against the Auburn Tigers.