OXFORD, Miss. - For the second straight match the Rebels found themselves in an epic battle with a top-20 team, and for the second time things ended two points short at the end for the home team as Ole Miss (9-17, 5-13 SEC) fell to No. 18 Kentucky (24-4, 15-2 SEC) on Sunday by a score of 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-19, 33-31, 15-17).
Three Rebels turned in double-doubles as a part of a herculean effort on Senior Day at Ole Miss. Kara Morgan put down 16 kills and 15 digs, while Amanda Philpot tallied 57 assists and 17 digs to go along with 12 kills and 10 digs from Whitney Craven.
The Rebels fought off a pair of match points in the fifth to tie the set at 14 on a kill from Morgan, before a Wells kill staved off a third match point to tie the set at 15. Kentucky closed it out from there with back-to-back scores to grab the match and escape Oxford with the win.
"Our hats are off to Kentucky in what was a tough match and a hard fought contest," said Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin. "I don't know how you can ask for more than we've gotten out of this team for the last two matches. We came up two points short at the end in both matches (against No. 15 Tennessee and No. 18 Kentucky), but the final score doesn't really show how hard and well this team played.
"Regina Thomas and Morgan Springs, our two seniors, have been a huge part of this program since they got to campus," Getzin continued. "Both of them have done amazing things for Ole Miss in their careers on and off the court. The roles they have played behind the scenes in helping us build this program have been big and aren't something that have been seen by the public, but they've worked so hard."
The match opened with a tight first set that saw Kentucky take the early lead, only to have Ole Miss fight back and move in front of the Wildcats at 6-5. Kentucky answered with another run that erased the Rebel advantage and build a three-point edge of its own at 15-12. Ole Miss put together an answering run to close within one at 20-19, but couldn't overtake the Wildcats before a final push from Kentucky gave the visiting team the first set 25-21.
It was nip-and-tuck in the early portion of the second set with the Rebels holding the edge at the start before a Whitney Billlings kill gave the Wildcats a 10-9 lead. Ole Miss answered to tie the score at 11 - one of 16 tie scores in the set - and the squads began trading scores again. The Rebels held a late lead at 22-21, but two quick scores from the Wildcats put Kentucky back on top before closing out the second set 25-23.
The third set saw Ole Miss snag the early lead for the second straight frame, only to have Kentucky answer every run the Rebels would put together at the start. Ole Miss broke the stalemate for good on a kill from Thomas that put the home team up 12-11 kept the match alive with a 25-19 win in the third set.
Neither team was willing to concede the fourth set in a contest of wills that had the crowd at the Gillom Center on its feet for much of the frame. Kentucky jumped out to a 10-5 lead and sent the Rebels into a timeout. The Wildcats held the five-point advantage until 19-15 when the Rebels dug deep and went to work, putting together a run that erased the Kentucky advantage and evened the match at 21 on a Thomas kill.
Ole Miss inched in front 24-23, but Kentucky fought off the set point for the Rebels with an Ashley Frazier kill before the battle of wills really began. The two teams traded scores down the stretch with Ole Miss fighting off five match points and Kentucky holding off two set points before the Rebels closed things out.
Wells put down a kill to knot the score at 31 before back-to-back attack errors from the Wildcats gave Ole Miss the fourth set 33-31 and set up the decisive fifth frame.
The Wildcats raced out of the gates in the fifth set, taking a 4-0 lead on the Rebels before Ole Miss would trim the deficit to three at 8-5 when the squads flipped ends of the court. The home team continued to chip away at the lead, fighting off two match points to tie the set at 14.
The teams traded kills on the next two rallies to even things again at 15 as Ole Miss fought off a third match point, but a Kentucky kill and a Rebel attack error sealed the deal for the Wildcats as Kentucky won the match with a 17-15 victory in set five.
Ole Miss will play its final road contest of the season on Friday when the Rebels travel to Starkville to face Mississippi State at 7 p.m. at the Newell-Grissom building. Ole Miss will then return home for its final match of the season against Alabama on Friday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Gillom Sports Center.
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