The Ole Miss volleyball team plays two matches this weekend, one at home against Missouri on Friday and at No. 16 Kentucky on Sunday.
The Rebels will look to build on the momentum they gained in their win against LSU this past Sunday in which they snapped their four-match losing streak and picked up their first conference win.
“We have a group of fighters,” head coach Steven McRoberts said. “We have a group of high-character young ladies, and they’re just not ever going to give up, and I’m still seeing improvement.”
Missouri, a team on the edge of the AVCA top-25, is 14-4 on the season and 4-2 in SEC play. The Tigers have won key matches against No. 25 Arizona State in a neutral-site game and then-No. 25 Alabama at home, but they have struggled on the road thus far — with losses at Tennessee and at Kentucky in SEC play and at James Madison in non-conference play.
Mizzou made a surprising run in the NCAA Tournament last year, defeating Kansas and No. 16 Wichita State before losing in the third round to No. 1 Penn State. The Tigers took both matches against Ole Miss last year and have won their past six matchups with the Rebs, going back to 2014. The Rebels will hope to snap this streak on Friday as they search for signature wins that could pad their NCAA Tournament resume.
“The SEC is really good. It’s really competitive, so we’re just looking to keep this momentum going and keep building,” senior Caroline Adams said. “We’re gonna have to play our best every time if we want to win in the SEC.”
Ole Miss will travel to Lexington on Sunday to take on No. 16 Kentucky in its second game of the weekend. The Wildcats are 11-4 on the season, including 5-0 in SEC play, and have won 11 of their past 12 after dropping their first three matches of the season to No. 10 Creighton, No. 15 Southern California and Northern Iowa. Their only loss since that span came on the road at No. 4 Texas in Austin on Sept. 7.
Last year Kentucky finished 29-4, and lost in the national quarterfinals to eventual champion Nebraska. The Wildcats won their only meeting with Ole Miss last season 3-0 (25-16, 25- 10, 26-24), and have not lost to the Rebels since October 2010.
“We’re hitting a really tough stretch of matches here. … We would love to see immediate results, but our team is gonna have to play much better even than we did this weekend against Arkansas and LSU to have the opportunity against those teams that are coming up,” McRoberts said.
The Rebels started this season 9-1 before losing seven of eight matches, including four in a row to begin their SEC slate. The team will look to put this stretch behind them and build on their impressive performance versus LSU as they push forward in their conference schedule.
“We had been playing pretty well. There were definitely things we could do better, but it wasn’t like we were just playing badly and getting stomped. We had opportunities in that Georgia match where we had set points in the first set and the third set, and we couldn’t finish either one,” McRoberts said. “We had Arkansas down and just couldn’t finish the deal there, so hopefully the win (against LSU) gives us some confidence.”
The Rebels will take on Missouri at 6:30 p.m. Friday before travelling to Lexington to play Kentucky at noon on Sunday.
“I’m expecting it to be a challenge but I think we’re ready. Practice after practice we’ve been working hard and just trying to put pieces together,” sophomore Bayleigh Scott said. “We’re going in with a positive attitude, knowing that we can beat anybody and we can do anything, so we just believe in ourselves and continue to work.”