Ole Miss Volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts watched as his team started strong against LSU, but then saw the Rebels struggle as the Tigers gained momentum and took the third set. Ultimately the Rebels dug deep and prevailed 25-11, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23, setting a school record for home wins in the process.
The Rebels (21-8, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) were in a dogfight for the final three sets, a position they have been in before at times this season. However, Ole Miss overcame LSU’s punches to defeat the Tigers 3-1, and moved to 13 home wins on the season, keeping alive their chances for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Before Sunday’s hard-fought victory, Ole Miss hadn’t beaten LSU since 2013.
Late in the fourth set, the teams were tied at 23 until a kill by sophomore outside hitter Kate Gibson–and a misfortunate ball handling error by the Tigers’ Lindsay Flory–propelled the Rebels to the 25-23 win in the final set.
There were a total of 26 ties and six lead changes in the match, with most of them coming in the final two sets. LSU and Ole Miss combined for 248 attacks and 92 kills.
The Rebels’ Lexi Thompson was up for the challenge the Tigers presented.
“It was definitely exciting because they are a rival team and we all stuck together and played together,” said Thompson, who had 11 kills, five digs and one assist. “We fought through the hard things and it was just a great time.”
After a strong performance in the first set where the Rebels hit .524 and got a convincing 25-11 win over LSU (9-16, 5-9), Ole Miss found itself in a much tighter second set as the Tigers kept it close for the most part. In the beginning of the second set, the Rebels led 12-4 and were on a 6-0 run following Gibson’s service ace, but things quickly changed once LSU settled and found consistency on offense.
The Tigers went on a 6-2 run to close the gap to 14-10 and got within one (19-18) late in the second set, but couldn’t overpower Ole Miss’ front of Thompson, Ty Laporte, and Nakeyta Clair, who combined for 21 kills. The Rebels were able to bridge the gap and top a feisty LSU team, 25-22, off Kristen Brashear’s service ace.
Trailing 2-0, the Tigers won the third set 25-18 behind the performance of sophomore outside hitter Gina Tillis, who had a game-high 19 kills along with seven digs to close the gap.
McRoberts felt LSU’s energy on the floor—and its fans cheering in the stands—changed the entire landscape of the match and forced Ole Miss to dig deeper.
“My main thing was to keep trying to encourage them to try and get some energy back into them because that’s really what we needed,” McRoberts said. “It got quiet in here for a while with our crowd and as we started making plays, it was getting louder and you could see that our players starting feeding off making some good plays.”
Gibson was a big part of the four-set thriller and knew what Ole Miss had to do: fight.
“Coming out of that second set, LSU found motivation because we were struggling a little bit and so them being strong attacking, I don’t think we were ready for it,” said Gibson, who had a team-high 13 kills. “In the third set, we were fighting back with them and in the fourth set, we came out with the victory.”
Kate Gibson’s 13 kills and 12 digs gave the sophomore her fourth straight double-double. She also added 3 service aces.
Lexi Thompson finished with 11 kills, five digs, three blocks and two aces.
Freshman Kathryn Cather tallied seven kills with only one error.
Nakeyta Clair notched six kills and added five blocks.
Rebels’ next game: Friday (11/20) at Auburn (5:30 p.m.)
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics