Volleyball pursues first conference win in Oxford

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

In its first four matches of conference play, Alabama volleyball has played two nationally ranked teams and one undefeated team.

Although it’s been a rough start in the SEC, the Crimson Tide (6-10, 0-4) isn’t giving up.  

“Despite the win-loss column, I think it’s still been beneficial and a lot of learning moments,” middle blocker Alyiah Wells said. “We haven’t gotten the outcome that we’ve wanted but we’re still taking positive steps in the right direction.” 

The Crimson Tide will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend to play the Ole Miss Rebels in its latest SEC matchup. The Rebels (5-9, 1-3) are coming off their first conference win against LSU (9-6, 3-2) this past weekend. 

Ole Miss has stretched three of its four SEC matches to five sets. From their time in the conference, the Rebels have learned endurance and consistency. 

For Alabama head coach Rashinda Reed, consistency has been a focus all season, and practice this week was no different. 

“It’s more repetition,” Reed said.  “When you have more repetition, it instills confidence within you because you’ve practiced it enough.” 

The Crimson Tide will be going to Oxford this weekend in search of their first conference win. Both teams are at the bottom of the conference and the Rebels are 0-3 at home, so this weekend has potential to be the win Reed and her squad have been seeking to break a four-game losing streak. 

Reed said she saw some promise in the match against Kentucky that will hopefully develop more this weekend.  

“There were some things we were very happy about,” Reed said. “They weren’t really earning points — we were just giving it to them. I don’t want to give anything to anybody.” 

For Ole Miss, this season is looking very different from the last one. In 2021, the Rebels went 21-9, appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years. In her second year with the program, head coach Kayla Barnwarth improved her team’s record from 1-19 to 21-9 — a 65% increase in winning percentage. 

However, Ole Miss lost seven members of its 2021 squad to graduation and the transfer portal. Six freshmen are attempting to fill that hole. Defense specialist Cammy Niesen has already made an impact on the Rebels’ defense, leading her team with 187 digs. But her and the rest of the freshmen are still trying to return Ole Miss to its former glory. 

For Wells, she says she’s just focusing on achieving team goals and that the wins will come with it. 

“[It’s] just focusing on the little things,” Wells said. “We have specific goals in specific categories for each game, and it plays into the one goal of making teams respect us and us frustrating other teams.”  

The senior from Memphis, Tennessee, said she’s excited to compete at Ole Miss, especially since it’s less than an hour from her hometown. 

“Every single time we step on the court is an opportunity,” Wells said. “I’m from the area so a lot of my family will be there. It’ll be good to be able to play there one last time.” 

Alabama and Ole Miss will face off Friday at 7 p.m. CT and Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. The Friday match will be on the SEC Network.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]