The Ole Miss volleyball team travels to Washington, D.C. this weekend for two matches against Howard and American University. The Rebels will look to take care of business in their final non-conference matches before returning home to begin SEC play against Tennessee on Sept. 27.
On Friday, the Rebs will take on a Howard squad in the midst of a disappointing 2-9 start to the season for the Bison. Last year the Bison finished 20-10 to win the regular-season MEAC title before cruising through their conference tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Penn State.
Howard has lost five straight heading into Friday’s matchup, including three straight matches where they failed to pick up a single set. Its only two wins of the season came against Hartford and Canisius, two programs that have not been competitive in years.
On Saturday, Ole Miss will face reigning Patriot League co-champion American University. Last year the Eagles finished 20-13 but lost a heartbreaker to Navy in the Patriot League championship.
The Eagles have struggled to build momentum and currently sit at 5-5 this season. They have lost back-to-back matches against Georgia and Northwestern after handling Duke easily on the road in Durham. They will face Rutgers at home Friday night before taking on the Rebels Saturday afternoon, and will be fighting hard to stay above .500 in their final non-conference matches.
Last weekend, Ole Miss swept their three matches in the Central Arkansas Classic, defeating Little Rock 3-0, Central Arkansas 3-2 and Oral Roberts 3-1.
The Rebels made quick work of the Trojans in their first match behind a strong team effort. Sophomore middle blocker Aubrey Sultemeier and senior outside hitter Emily Stroup led the way with nine kills each, with Stroup also contributing 10 digs and two blocks. Sultemeier recorded an impressive .500 hitting percentage and also added three blocks to her season total.
Senior middle blocker Nayo Warnell also stood out for the Rebs, contributing seven kills on an astounding .700 clip to go along with three blocks.
In their second match Ole Miss defeated Central Arkansas 3-2 in a hotly contested match. Freshman outside hitter Anna Bair continued her excellent start to the season with 22 kills on a .280 hitting percentage. Stroup added 21 kills on a lackluster .194 clip, and Warnell recorded seven blocks to go along with seven kills. Junior setter Lauren Bars also had a strong match, contributing 52 assists, seven blocks and eight digs.
In their final match of the weekend, the Rebels took down an inferior Oral Roberts squad with ease on the backs of Stroup and Warnell. Stroup ended with a match-high 17 kills while Warnell finished off her stellar weekend with 13 kills on a .632 percentage to go along with an outstanding nine blocks. Warnell was named tournament MVP for her efforts and also took home SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Ole Miss opens SEC play in Oxford on Friday, Sept. 27 against Tennessee where they will try to get revenge for their two losses to the Volunteers last year.