Last season, Ole Miss volleyball was 14-18 (4-14). A year later, the Rebs have started 13-3 (5-0) and are receiving top 25 votes.
It’s a tremendous turnaround, and they’re riding a 13 game winning streak. That’s right. The Rebels started the year 0-3 and haven’t lost a game since. Tonight at 8, they face the Arkansas Razorbacks (6-11, 0-5) at the GIllom Center. You can either go to the game or watch on the SEC Network. Do one of those things.
Coach Steven McRoberts has put together a team full of heart that’s trying as hard as it possibly can on every point. They’ve faced some teams recently that are more talented on paper, but the Rebs just keep pushing, and they communicate really well.
If you’re just starting to pay attention to this team, it’s worth knowing a few storylines about the year and understanding what has made this volleyball team tick.
Six total players have played in every set this season. Three are seniors.
Obviously, this isn’t a young team and is full of veterans who are playing good volleyball. Nicole Purcell, Nayo Warnell, and Emily Stroup are the three constant seniors, and Leah Mulkey has played in 52 of 63 sets this year. Each of them is really contributing and sometimes willing this team to victory.
Stroup is the most decorated player on the team and someone McRoberts says may be the best player to ever come through Ole Miss. An All-SEC selection a year ago, Stroup holds the Ole Miss records for kills in a game and kills in a season. She’s getting close to the record for kills in a career. There’s no question who the ball’s going to in a match point situation.
Purcell leads the team in digs by a wide margin. Warnell is tied for the team lead in blocks.
There’s also a freshman who is changing the game.
Anna Bair has 203 kills to Stroup’s 237 and was named SEC freshman of the week in both weeks 2 and 3, the first Rebel ever to accomplish the feat in back-to-back weeks.
She attacks the net with confidence, and judging from The Season, the team is inspired by her approach. It’s nice to know that there’s a foundational piece who will be in Oxford for another 3 years after this one ends.
Only two more teams on the schedule are ranked in the Top-25.
The Rebels got their first top 25 win of the season last week against Missouri, and while the SEC is known for having a litany of the best teams in every sport, there are only three teams in the top 25 at the moment. Florida (13), Kentucky (16), and Missouri (25) are the best the conference has to offer at the moment, with Ole Miss and Georgia receiving votes.
The Rebs only have two more chances at coveted top 25 wins on the schedule, so they need to try to make the most of those opportunities. This could be a special year, but they’re going to have to maintain focus and not let moments get too big for them.
With the leadership this team has shown, that may not be a big issue.