Photo: Ole Miss Volleyball vs. Missouri in Oxford, on Oct. 22. (Photo by Bella Wood/Ole Miss Athletics)
• The Rebels wrap up the month of October with a rivalry match at Mississippi State Wednesday, October 26th.
• Ole Miss has won five of its last six matches entering tonight’s contest.
• Middle blockers Payton Brgoch and Sasha Ratliff led Ole Miss to a series sweep of Missouri, combining for 55 kills on a .506 attacking percentage.
• Freshmen Cammy Niesen and Vivian Miller have turned heads in the SEC, garnering three weekly honors this season.
• Setter Aly Borellis ranks eighth nationally among freshmen with 9.89 assists per set.
• Senior Anna Bair has been one of the conference’s top attackers in 2022, ranking 10th in the SEC with 3.66 kills per set.
• Bair picked up her 1,000th career kill on September 30, becoming just the 15th Rebel in program history to accomplish the feat.
• Sasha Ratliff was one of 15 student-athletes named to the Preseason All-SEC Team. She earned all-conference honors last year after a breakout sophomore campaign.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Head coach Julie Darty Dennis and Mississippi State head into the Magnolia State matchup with an 11-8 record and a 4-5 mark in conference play. The Bulldogs started the season strong but have dropped each of their last three matches. Taking advantage of her extra season of eligibility, senior Gabby Waden leads the MSU attack averaging 3.54 kills per set. Senior setter Gabby Coulter has the Bulldogs hitting at a .237 mark as a team while registering 9.35 assists per set. Defensively, Mississippi State leads the conference with 15.21 digs per set but ranks last in blocking, with 1.79 blocks per set.
Ole Miss leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 73-29; however, the Bulldogs have won the last three meetings. Ole Miss looks to snap that streak on Wednesday. The Rebels are 26-17 when playing in Starkville.
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss was unable to fend off a Bulldog comeback, falling 3-2 in the in-state showdown between the Rebels and Mississippi State.
Ole Miss found itself in a hole early, trailing 10-6, but overcame the deficit with a 5-0 behind Ratliff at the service line. A Bulldog kill tied the set up at 11 all and remained tied through 18 until MSU retook the lead. The Rebels halted two straight set points to tie things up again at 24 and grabbed the set with a big kill and block from Sultemeier at 27-25. They continued to roll in set two, building an early 10-4 lead. It was all Ole Miss as the Rebels increased the lead to eight at 22-14 before finishing off the set with a 25-16 victory.
Needing one more set victory to win the match, Ole Miss faced some pushback from Mississippi State. The Bulldogs would not back down, continuing to find the answer to every Rebel run and tie up the set. A point away from the sweep, MSU stopped two straight set points to tie at 24. Both teams refused to give up the fight, but two-straight kills on the outside gave Mississippi State its first set victory, 30-28. The Bulldogs once again refused to back down in the fourth set. Ole Miss held a five-point advantage but saw it disappear as MSU went on a late 7-0 to take the lead and force a fifth set.
Mississippi State carried the momentum into the deciding set, taking a 5-2 lead as the Rebel offense worked to get going. Ole Miss cut the deficit to three but was unable to close the gap, falling in the set 15-10 and dropping the match.
SHINING BRIGHT ON THE BIG STAGE
Although they are only three months into their collegiate volleyball career, Aly Borellis, Vivian Miller and Cammy Niesen have established themselves integral pieces of Ole Miss volleyball. Borellis has had a stellar start to her freshman campaign, ranking eighth nationally among freshmen at the setter position with 9.89 assists per set. Outside hitter Vivian Miller has also come on strong as of late, averaging 2.42 kills per set on the year and finishing in double-figures in five of her last six matches. Niesen rounds out the trio, having started all 19 matches at libero. She leads the team in digs and has tallied 10 or more 15 times, including an SEC leading five 20-plus dig performances.
TAMING THE TIGERS
The Rebels got back on track, winning both matches in the weekend series with Missouri. Ole Miss broke out the brooms Friday night, sweeping the Tigers while hitting at a .314 clip, its fourth-best mark of the season. The following afternoon, Ole Miss pulled off a come-from-behind win, overcoming a seven-point deficit in the fourth set and winning the fifth set to stun Missouri. The middle blockers in Sasha Ratliff and Payton Brgoch led the Rebels all weekend long, combining for 55 kills on a .506 attacking percentage.
Blocking runs in the Ratliff family. In less than three years, Ole Miss junior Sasha Ratliff has quickly climbed into the top 10 in the record books, ranking ninth all-time in the rally scoring era with 260 total blocks. The Rebel middle blocker’s father, Theo Ratliff, was a shot blocker too, ranking 20th in NBA history, with nearly 2,000 blocks in his 16 year career.
JUST GETTING STARTED
After leading the Ole Miss attack and registering career-high kills in both victories against Alabama, outside hitter Vivian Miller was named SEC Freshman of the Week on October 10. She paced the Rebels offensively against the Crimson Tide, averaging 4.13 kills per set on the weekend and hitting at a blistering .338 clip. The Jupiter, Florida, native tallied 15 kills in Friday’s win and followed it up with an 18-kill performance while hitting at a career-best .485 clip. Miller also added a career-best 17 digs on Saturday for her second collegiate double-double.
ABSOLUTELY DIGGIN’ IT
Following back-to-back 20-dig performances on the road, Ole Miss libero Cammy Niesen was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week on October 3. She anchored the Rebel defense on the road in Baton Rouge, collecting a career-high 24 digs on Friday against LSU and followed it up with 20 digs the following night, helping lead Ole Miss to its first conference victory of the season. Niesen is one of six SEC student-athletes to record back-to-back 20-plus dig matches this season.
The following weekend against Alabama, Niesen continued to turn heads in the SEC, this time garnering Defensive Player of the Week honors. The Cincinnati, Ohio, product raised her game, averaging 5.25 digs per set and helped the Rebel defense hold Alabama to a mere .150 hitting percentage. On Friday, Niesen tallied a career-best 29 digs in the win, tied for the most in a four-set match by any SEC student-athlete this season and the most by a Rebel since 2018. She is one of four freshmen in the conference this season and the first Rebel freshman since Anna Bair in 2019 to claim multiple SEC weekly awards.
ROLLING THE TIDE
Ole Miss broke out the brooms, sweeping the series with Alabama for its first two victories at home this season. The Rebels came out on top 3-1 on Friday after dropping the opening set. Four Rebels tallied double-digit kills, led by Katie Corelli and Vivian Miller, who finished with 15 each. Defensively, Ole Miss held Alabama to a mere .115 attacking percentage. The following day, the Rebels grabbed a 3-1 victory, nearly pulling off the sweep. Freshman Vivian Miller shined in the win, recording her second career double-double with 18 kills and 17 digs.
Senior Anna Bair has been a staple of the Ole Miss attack each of the past four seasons she’s donned a Rebel uniform. On Friday, September 30, the strong-armed St. Louis native reached the 1,000 kill milestone against LSU, becoming the 15th Rebel in program history achieve the feat. In her career, Bair is hitting at a .225 clip in her career and averaging 3.06 kills per set. A leader on the court, Bair has tallied double-digit kills in 50 matches, including 15 this season.
Despite an tough 4-6 record in non-conference action, the Rebels gained valuable experience on the court that will prepare them for SEC play and a run in the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss had one of the tougher opening weekends across the country, hosting #9 Georgia Tech and #17 Illinois for the Ole Miss Invitational. They came up just short of the Yellow Jackets, scoring 24 points or more in all four sets, and fell to Illinois in four sets. The uphill climb continued the following weekend at the Husker Invitational, where they battled with #2 Nebraska. The Rebels picked up their first two victories of 2022 at the Bobcat Invitational and followed it up with another 2-1 weekend at the Jaguar Invitational to round out the non-conference slate.
The Rebels found their groove September 9 and 10 at the Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos, Texas. Ole Miss got back to winning ways, sweeping Sam Houston behind an efficient attack led by Anna Bair and Payton Brgoch. In the nightcap, the Rebs battled the host, Texas State, eating the Cats up in four sets. Bair and Sasha Ratliff each laid down 17 kills, while freshman setter Aly Borellis powered the offense to a .329 hitting percentage with a career-high 51 assists.
PUTTING THE LEAGUE ON NOTICE
Ole Miss junior middle blocker Sasha Ratliff was one of fifteen student-athletes selected to the 2022 Preseason Volleyball All-SEC Team. Ratliff established herself as one of the top middle-blockers in the SEC last season, earning an all-conference nod as well as AVCA All-Region honors. The Atlanta, Georgia, native paced the team with a school record 113 assisted blocks and was one shy of the single-season total block record with 129. Ratliff was also a top offensive contributor, ranking third in the conference and 28th nationally at a .385 hitting clip.
ROOKIES IN THE RANKINGS
The Rebels added top talent to their 2022 class with the addition of six signees, including multiple Prep Volleyball Top-150 honorees. Five of the six new Rebels received AVCA High School All-America honors their senior year, tied with Florida for the most in the nation.
Aly Borellis makes her way to Oxford as a four-year letterwinner at Notre Dame Preparatory and a member of the Prep Volleyball Top-150 list. A decorated setter out of Rochester, Michigan, Borellis has racked up multiple All-American honors in her high school career, including a pair of PrepVolleyball First Team honors, AAU All-American laurels and 2021 AVCA First Team All-American honors.
Middle blocker Tessa Jones joins the Rebels as a Prep Volleyball Top-150 recruit and 2021 AVCA Honorable Mention High School All-American. In her four-year career at Seton High School in Cleves, Ohio, Jones tallied 606 kills and racked up 144 total blocks.
Outside hitter Shayla Meyer closed out her high school career with over 1,700 kills. The Superior, Nebraska, native was named first team All-Conference three years in a row, found a spot on the C-2 Volleyball All-State first team in 2020 and 2021 AVCA Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Ready for her first season in a Rebel uniform, Vivian Miller comes to campus as a highly touted recruit out of Jupiter, Florida, being named to the Prep Volleyball Top-100, AVCA Phenom List, AVCA Best and Brightest First Team and 2021 AVCA Second Team All-American honors. At Jupiter High School, the outside hitter totaled 500 kills in 154 sets played.
Cammy Niesen, listed as a defensive specialist, hopes to make an impact for the Rebels at the libero position. The 2021 AVCA Second Team High School All-American graduated as the all-time dig leader at Roger Bacon High School, where she led the Miami Valley Conference in digs as a senior. Niesen was also named first team All-District, District Player of the Year and first team All-State in 2020.
Outside hitter Emma Schwieger caps off the freshmen talent. The Bishop Moore Catholic High School grad was tabbed as the No. 5 player and the No. 1 right side in Florida for the class of 2022 and was listed as one of Prep Volleyball’s 2022 players to watch.
RATLIFF, WHITE AND BLUE
After establishing herself as one of the top middle-blockers in the SEC last season, Sasha Ratliff received an invitation to the Women’s National Team Open Program in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this past February. The junior spent three days training with some of the top athletes in the nation as part of the selection process for the U.S. Women’s National Team and the 2022 U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team.