The Ole Miss volleyball team will play two matches this weekend, one against South Carolina on Friday in Columbia and another against Alabama on Sunday at home. With just three matches remaining in the regular season, the Rebels will look to string together some wins to bring their record back up to .500.
Ole Miss is 13-16 this season and has struggled to close matches with a younger, more inexperienced team than in past years. With postseason play no longer in the cards, the Rebels want to secure quality wins to build a foundation for next season. They can also play spoiler to SEC rivals who are jockeying for NCAA Tournament positions in the last weeks of the season.
South Carolina, 18-6 this season, has had one of the most surprising turnarounds in the SEC this year, posting a 9-5 conference record. The Gamecocks enter the match winners of three straight matches, including a key win over then-No. 20 Missouri on Nov. 2. The Gamecocks have not quite secured an NCAA Tournament bid and are now in a must-win scenario, with matches against No. 11 Kentucky and No. 13 Florida still remaining. They will also be motivated to defend their home court on their Senior Night.
Ole Miss has won five of its last six matchups against South Carolina, including three straight dating back to 2016. The Rebels won both matches against the Gamecocks last year but now face a very different team that has established itself as one of the leaders in the SEC.
Alabama is 18-10 this season and 5-9 in SEC play. The Tide enters the weekend as losers of four in a row and will be looking to avenge the loss they suffered at home against the Rebels on Oct. 28. The Crimson Tide has stumbled over the past month after jumping into the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll in late September. They are now looking to try to end the season on a high note and possibly secure one of the last bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss has won three of its past four matchups with Alabama, including the 3-1 victory over the Tide on Oct. 28. Neither team has won a match since that date, and one of these losing streaks will come to an end this weekend.
Sunday’s matchup against the Crimson Tide will be the Rebels’ final home match of the season, and they will celebrate Senior Night with an Ole Miss beanie giveaway for the first 200 fans. The four seniors who will be honored are middle blocker Delaney Gallagher, starting outside hitter Caitlin Wernentin, middle blocker Audrey Fischer and starting defensive specialist Caroline Adams.
Last year, Adams set the school record for digs in a season (522), and was a key player for the Rebels this year at the libero position. Wernentin has been instrumental for the Rebels this season at her outside hitter position, and her success gave junior outside hitter Emily Stroup more freedom to work the middle of the court late in the season. Fischer and Gallagher saw more playing time early in their careers but were pushed out of the rotation this year because of the superb play from freshman Aubrey Sultemeier, sophomore Bayleigh Scott and junior Nayo Warnell.
The Rebels will play South Carolina at 6 p.m. Friday before returning home to play Alabama at 3 p.m. Sunday.