OXFORD, Miss. – The last several months have been a whirlwind for the Ole Miss volleyball team. Getting to know new coaches and learning a new system are all part of the things that go along with a coaching change. After their first few months together, which included seven spring matches, head coach Steven McRoberts is pleased with where the team is at looking ahead to their European trip and fall camp.
“We accomplished a lot. It’s a new system for the team. I’ve been very pleased with how hard they’ve worked,” McRoberts said. “From a mental standpoint, all of them are trying to do what we’re asking them to do. Part of the process of change is that you don’t have a lot of success [to go on], so many of them had to fight through that mentally. Everybody at the end of the spring started to get on the same page, and we really saw that at our last tournament. We are heading in the right direction.”
A highlight of the spring, rising sophomore Aubrey Edie was selected to train and compete with the U.S. Collegiate National Team from June 22 to July 1 in Minneapolis. Edie was among 36 athletes selected from nearly 300 who tried out.
“Aubrey had a good spring, setting. We are very proud of her that she made the National Collegiate Team,” he said.
While the coaching staff is obviously still evaluating each position, McRoberts did note upcoming sophomore Melanie Crow will move from the right side to the left side. “She had some growing pains to start, but she has started to take ownership of that position and do some great things,” McRoberts said.
Another area McRoberts highlighted during the spring was the play of the middle blockers.
“All of our middles, Ty (Laporte), Nakeyta (Clair) and even Taylor (Townsend) coming in as an early enrollee, had a good spring,” McRoberts said. “In our last jump test, they all jumped 10 feet 4 ½ inches. That’s incredible. When we are ball-controlling and we have multiple options, we can be pretty good. A lot of our success in the fall is going to depend on how well we serve and pass and what kind of productivity we get out of our left side so as not to put overdue stress on our middles.”
The coaching staff will have plenty more opportunities to evaluate the players with an upcoming trip to Italy on the horizon. The team will depart May 25, landing in Prague, Czech Republic for their first stop and continuing on into Italy where they will face more competition.
“Fortunately for us, we get to come back here in about three weeks and practice twice a day to get ready for a great trip to Italy for more competition. Then we get to come back in August and add our freshman (Lexi Thompson) to the mix. It’s almost like we have three different seasons, before we actually start the regular season that we are getting to train and evaluate the team.”
Ole Miss will return four players who started almost every match last year in 2014, led by Edie, who averaged a team-high 9.21 assists per set, tops among freshmen in the SEC. Clair had the best blocking season in program history in the rally scoring era. She broke the single-season program record for block assists (105) and total blocks (130), and finished second in single-season program history for solo blocks (25).
Stay tuned for more Rebel volleyball news, including the release of the 2014 schedule as well as more information on the upcoming European trip.
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