Strong third set not enough to keep Kentucky from sweeping Ole Miss
LEXINGTON, Kentucky – Ole Miss Volleyball’s NCAA tournament hopes more than likely came to an end Sunday with a loss at No. 6 Kentucky in three sets, though the Rebels do have a solid chance of receiving a bid to the NIT.
The Wildcats stormed out of the gates to take set one 25-16, and it didn’t get much better from there, as Ole Miss lost set two, 25-10, and a hard-fought set three, 26-24. (Click here for complete Box Score.)
Ole Miss head coach Steven McRoberts commented on the execution problems that plagued the Rebels early.
“A couple of missed serves, a couple of missed assignments on defense, and next thing you know, what should be maybe a four-point lead, and all of a sudden you look up and it is eight or nine,” McRoberts said.
However, for the most part, McRoberts was pleased with the Rebels’ performance, noting that Kentucky had to earn most of its points off kills, rather than from Ole Miss errors.
Rebels never quit
Even when down 24-18 in the third set, the Rebels didn’t give up, scoring six consecutive points to tie the set at 24 and force the third set into overtime.
“Really proud that we pushed them there. I definitely think it is something, especially for our younger players to see that (they can push them) there.“
Ole Miss Volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts
Speaking of young players, Ole Miss played plenty of them against the Wildcats. With only two seniors on the team–Lexi Thompson and Kate Gibson–many younger players are contributing.
Against the Wildcats, sophomore Emily Stroup finished with 12 kills and 13 digs. Freshman Bayleigh Scott notched 4 kills and 6 block assists. Sophomore Jordan Fate led the Rebels with 16 assists.
In fact, six of the nine Rebels to get significant playing time were sophomores or younger. However, with that comes growing pains.
“When you’re competitive with teams that are as good as they are on the national stage, I think it stops being so overwhelming to step into a Kentucky or Florida. They make runs in the NCAA tournament. They think, ‘Hey, we can play with them.'”
McRoberts said the next step, of course, is to beat Kentucky or Florida, citing Ole Miss’ victories over every SEC school except those two in his four-year tenure in Oxford.
The Rebels fall to 16-14 (7-10), while the Wildcats improve to 24-3 (14-1), closing in on a share of the Southeastern Conference title should they win against Georgia on Saturday.
Next Up for the Rebels
Despite the loss more than likely knocking the Rebels out of NCAA tournament contention, McRoberts believes that a win against South Carolina Wednesday should give the Rebels a decent chance at the NIT.
Postseason or not, Ole Miss fans have one last guaranteed chance to see seniors Lexi Thompson and Kate Gibson Wednesday at the Gillom Center, as the Rebels end their regular season at home against South Carolina.
Opening serve is set for 6:30 p.m.
(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Volleyball)