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Ole Miss volleyball advances to NIVC quarterfinals

The Rebels will face Georgia for the third time this season.

Olympics: Features Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Ole Miss volleyball squad has advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIVC, volleyball’s equivalent of the NIT. They defeated Stephen F. Austin, 3-0,, in the first round on Wednesday and Arkansas State, 3-1, in the second round on Thursday.

The Red Wolves took the first set 25-18, but the Rebels won the next three, with sophomore outside hitter Emily Stroup taking over as she notched 11 of the Rebels’ 17 kills in the fourth set to close out the match. Stroup had 18 kills overall, while Lexi Thompson had 12 and Nayo Warnell had 10. Defensively, the Rebels held the Red Wolves to a .201 hitting percentage.

Ole Miss will host the Georgia Bulldogs in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. on Sunday. It will be the third time the two teams have met this season, with the Rebels winning 3-2 in Oxford on October 1 and the Bulldogs taking the rematch in Athens 3-0 on November 10.

For the Rebels to have a chance in this one, they’ll need to improve on both ends. In the Rebels’ last match against Georgia, Stroup had 13 kills and notched a .478 hitting percentage and Warnell had 7 kills and hit .700, but Thompson hit just .125 and Gibson hit .121. Against Arkansas State on Thursday night, Thompson hit .186 and Gibson hit .138. Stroup and Warnell were able to shoulder more of the load because Arkansas State was a clearly inferior team, but that likely won’t work against a better team. Thompson and Gibson are the first two offensive options on this team, and they need to be at their best for the Rebels to have a shot at the semifinals. Defensively, Ole Miss allowed Georgia to hit .327 in their last match. That has to improve as well.

Regardless of the outcome of the match on Sunday, this has been a successful season for the Rebels. They’re 19-14 overall and picked up two more wins in a loaded SEC than they did in 2016. Thompson and Gibson, two of the best players in program history, will graduate, but everyone else will return and the foundation has been laid for a successful 2018 season.