Though the Rebels were down 0-2 after the first two sets, Ole Miss came out in the third set with fire under its belts, pushing league-leading Kentucky to the limit. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Kentucky’s freshman middle blocker Brooke Morgan nailed back-to-back kills to give the Wildcats (15-6, 8-1) the 25-23 win in the third set and the 3-0 sweep over the feisty Rebels inside the Gillom Sports Center Sunday.
Ole Miss led 23-21 in the third set and seemed to have things under control until Kentucky’s Darian Mack recorded two straight kills to tie the game at 23 apiece. Mack finished the game with a game-high 14 kills.
Despite the Rebels (18-6, 4-5) falling short, head coach Steven McRoberts was happy with the team’s effort.
“We really just asked them to compete, keep our energy and we did that,” McRoberts said. “So, it was nice seeing coming out of the break that we didn’t have any quit in us.”
Coming into Sunday’s matchup against 21st ranked Kentucky, Ole Miss was riding a two-game winning streak, with wins at Arkansas and versus Tennessee, but the Wildcats proved to be a little too much for the Rebels.
Both programs were staggering in the first set, trying to find rhythm and stability on offense, and the first set remained back and forth until Kentucky found its offense thanks to sophomore outside hitter Mack, who led the team with nine kills after the first two sets and had a .357 hitting percentage.
Down 15-12 in the first set, Ole Miss’ Nakeyta Clair recorded a kill, then she and Lexi Thompson put together a block fest, to help Ole Miss rally for the tie at 15. After that, the Wildcats regained control and ended the first set on a 10-5 run for the 25-20 win.
Kentucky had 13 blocks. The Rebels recorded eight.
The Wildcats kept things on their side heading into the second set, building a 15-7 lead. A kill from Clair had Ole Miss within 18-14, but, outside of Clair, the Rebels struggled a bit to find another solid offensive performer and Kentucky went onto score four of the last six points in the second set for the 25-18 win.
Thompson had a team-high 10 kills for the Rebels as Ole Miss hit .117.
The Rebels fall to 1-4 in three-set matches and 3-2 at home in conference play.
“That’s a good team and there’s a reason why Kentucky is No. 1 in the conference,” McRoberts said about the Wildcats, who hit .260 and recorded 40 kills.
“They do the simple things really well and so sometimes people watch and wonder how that four-point run all of a sudden happens there at the end when it doesn’t look like they did a whole lot. They ended with four straight kills.”
Next Up: The Rebels will finish the month of October on the road against Georgia on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ESPNU).
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics