The Ole Miss volleyball team plays its first home games of the season this weekend. The team looks to build on its strong start to the season as it hosts the Rebel Invitational, featuring four games in Oxford versus Samford, Ohio State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Southern Miss.
The Rebels go into the weekend hoping to improve upon their 2-1 record, having lost only to No. 21 Iowa State so far this season. With stiff competition like Ohio State coming to Oxford over the weekend, Ole Miss aims to capitalize on its strong nonconference schedule and bulk up its resume for the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves, and hopefully we learn a lot about ourselves while we’re winning,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “(Ohio State will) be the best program that we’ve had in one of our tournaments or nonconference (games) since I’ve gotten here.”
The players are also confident that they can overcome the miscues that plagued them in their loss against Iowa State, in which the team failed to pick up a set.
“We struggled a lot with serve-receive that game and getting the ball up to the setters, so we’re just going to work a lot in practice … just getting our middles more involved,” senior Caroline Adams said. “I’m confident that we’re up for the challenge. It’s definitely going to push us, but I think … we can rise to the occasion, for sure.”
McRoberts may experiment with lineup changes while the season is still young to find the Rebels’ most efficient and effective lineup.
“We made some adjustments in that Oregon State match as far as changing a couple players around in our rotation,” McRoberts said. “We flipped Emily Stroup to the other outside hitter position — she and Caitlin (Wernentin) switched — and that seemed to work for us offensively.”
Ole Miss players and coaches are excited to play in the confines of their home arena for the first time this season, especially with the opportunity to compete against tough nonconference opponents.
“It’s good to play on a court that we practice (on) every day … in front of our own crowd,” assistant coach Ronaldo Pacheco said.
The Rebels will face Samford at 10 a.m. and Ohio State at 6:30 p.m. Friday, before playing at 2:30 p.m. Saturday versus Arkansas-Little Rock and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday versus Southern Miss.
“I think it’s gonna be a good challenge,” freshman Aubrey Sultemeier said. “I think we’re always pretty confident. We learned from this past weekend against some big teams that we just need to go out swinging.”