After beating Texas A&M for the first time in Ole Miss history, the Rebels are hoping to maintain that momentum as they prepare for an SEC bout with the University of Missouri.
“Our defense played lights out against A&M,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “It was the best we have ever played in that arena in College Station, and I am just really proud of the team effort in that match.”
The Rebels, 5-5 in SEC play this season, held Texas A&M to a .151 attack percentage Sunday. McRoberts was proud of his team’s staunch defensive play.
“That’s one of the things that we talked about before the match,” McRoberts said. “These young ladies have really just tried to get better every day, and they are not getting down. We have had four matches that we have had match point on and we have lost.”
Currently No. 6 in the SEC, the Rebels sit just two spots behind Missouri (5-3 in conference play). Wednesday’s home match represents an opportunity for McRoberts and his team to capture some valuable conference points — points they’ve missed out on in the past.
“If we get those then we are talking about how right now we are on the inside looking out of the NCAA Tournament,” McRoberts said. “It’s five or six total points for our (rating percentage index) to jump up 14 to 15 spots.”
But McRoberts isn’t dwelling on what could have been. Rather, he prefers to look forward to the rest of the season as his group works to solidify a spot in the postseason tournament
“We get two great opportunities this week,” McRoberts said. “Missouri just blasted us a couple weeks ago at their place, but we get them at home this time, and I am anticipating a much better match from us. We are simply playing better.”
The Rebels return home after playing three consecutive road games. McRoberts lamented the toll a travel-heavy schedule can take on a team.
“One thing I noticed is that this will be our seventh match in 25 days, with five on the road,” McRoberts said. “This will be their fifth match in 23 days, and three of their five were at home. I’ve never coached professionally, but it feels like that.”
McRoberts said the grind has begun to affect his team’s endurance on the court. With that said, the veteran coach is not making excuses. He continues to praise the team’s resilience.
“We get done with a match, and we fly back that night, and we get up the next day. … Sometimes, it’s a day off and you get two days to prepare, and then you’re on a plane again, and you’re going,” McRoberts said “It’s been a lot of single matches where it’s there and back and there and back, and I’m just proud of the team and the fight we have in us right now.”
But despite the exhaustion, McRoberts is preparing his team for a challenging match with the Tigers.
“They have two really dynamic middles, and when they get in their system, they are really hard across their front row,” McRoberts said. “Defense has been the key to us being in every match, and their hitters were open every time, and it just made it impossible for us. I want to show our team some of the good things we did before and work on the things we can get better at.”
The teams are set to clash Wednesday night at the Gillom Sports Center. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.