Ole Miss Volleyball kicks off their spring schedule on Saturday with two matches against Southern Miss and Mississippi College in preparation for a hopeful NCAA Tournament run in the fall.
After finishing last season with a disappointing 14-18 record, the Rebels look to turn things around next season with a strong freshman class and a more experienced roster overall.
They lost two key rotation pieces in outside hitter Caitlin Wernentin and defensive specialist Caroline Adams, two seniors who were impact players last fall. However, the Rebels brought in junior transfer Izzy Guzik from University of Portland, an outside hitter expected to play a big role in the Rebels’ offense next season. Guzik will be in her first action with Ole Miss on Saturday, and coaches and fans alike will be interested to see how she fits into the system.
Freshman middle blocker Ava Wampler will also be with the Rebels for the spring season, and could be an impact player for the team for years to come. Wampler is an intimidating presence on the court standing at 6’5” and boasting impressive honors during her high school career.
Ole Miss also added a new face to their coaching staff this year, bringing in former All-American Nakeyta Clair as a volunteer assistant. Clair, who played for the Rebels from 2012-2015, was just the second All-American in Ole Miss volleyball history and was also a two-time All-SEC selection and was selected for the SEC All-Freshman team. She also played for the USA Volleyball Collegiate National Team during her career at Ole Miss.
The Rebels’ first match of the spring season comes against in-state rivals Southern Miss at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Golden Eagles finished 17-15 last season and struggled to win matches away from home. They lost a nail-biter to Ole Miss last year at the Rebel Invitational in Oxford, a five-set match early in the season that pushed both sides to the limit.
After finishing 7-7 in Conference-USA, Southern Miss knocked off the No. 2 seeded Western Kentucky before falling to Florida International in the C-USA tournament. The Golden Eagles lost five seniors from last year’s squad but will have three freshman suit up for their spring season.
The second match for Ole Miss comes at 2 p.m. against Mississippi College of the D-II Gulf South Conference. Last year the Choctaws were 8-24 on the season, 2-14 in conference play. As an extremely young team, they fielded just one senior last year and 11 freshman. Their spring roster includes seven sophomores, three juniors, and one senior. The school rejoined the NCAA’s Division-II in 2016-2017 and now looks to build a reputable program in the GSC.
Ole Miss’s final match of the spring season will be played on April 9 against Alabama-Huntsville. Ole Miss was slated to play an exhibition match against Memphis on Tuesday to open the spring season, but the match was cancelled and no new date has been set.