OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss fans will have plenty of opportunities to see the Rebel volleyball team in action under first-year head coach Steven McRoberts, with a tournament in Memphis, two home tournaments and nine home SEC matches on the 2014 schedule, released Tuesday.
The Rebels will begin the season in a New York state of mind, traveling to Buffalo Aug. 29-31 to face Canisius, Siena, Lehigh and Buffalo.
Following their opening trip, the Rebels will stay close to or at home for almost the entire month of September. Alumni in the Memphis area will get a chance to check out the Rebels, as they participate in the Memphis Invitational Sept. 5-6 with matches against host Memphis, UT-Martin and Arkansas State.
Rebel fans coming to Oxford for the Sept. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette football game will want to make plans to be at the Gillom Sports Center, as the volleyball team will kick off the weekend with the Magnolia Invitational. The Rebels will face UAB Thursday, Sept. 11 in their first home match of the season. Friday before the Saturday football game, the Rebels will play Mercer and Jacksonville State.
The following weekend (Sept. 18-20), the Rebels are back in the Gillom Sports Center for the Rebel Classic, which includes Louisiana Tech, Lamar, Jackson State and Samford.
"The early season schedule allows our fans a lot of opportunities to see us play," McRoberts said. "Even one of our away tournaments is just up the road in Memphis, so alumni in that area can come watch us play. Our first home tournament is on a football weekend, and we were able to set up our home tournaments with a Thursday match to begin with."
McRoberts likes the mix of teams in the non-conference schedule. "We are still a really young team, and part of our job is to try and build confidence within our team. We wanted to put ourselves in a position to have quality matches with a chance to be successful. As we build our program, then we can start looking at our non-conference scheduling from an RPI standpoint."
The Rebels will open SEC play with five of their first seven matches on the road, beginning with matches at South Carolina (Sept. 26) and perennial power Florida (Sept. 28).
October begins with a home match against 2013 NCAA Tournament team, Missouri (Oct. 1) and includes home matches with arch-rival Mississippi State (Oct. 12) and LSU (Oct. 22). Road matches in October include Arkansas (Oct. 8), Auburn (Oct. 17), Alabama (Oct. 19) and Tennessee (Oct. 26).
Six of the Rebels' final nine regular season matches will be in the friendly confines of the Gillom Sports Center, beginning with South Carolina on Nov. 2. Following that match, the Rebels will hit the road for matches at Mississippi State (Nov. 5) and Texas A&M (Nov. 9).
The Rebels will split the following weekend, hosting Kentucky on Nov. 14 before traveling to Missouri on Nov. 16.
Thanksgiving week will be a busy one for Rebel fans, as the team hosts Florida (Nov. 21), Alabama (Nov. 23), Georgia (Nov. 26) and Texas A&M (Nov. 29) to conclude the regular season.
"With this league, it doesn't matter whether you play so many at home to start or vice-versa, it's going to be tough. Having played a few of the teams at my previous stops, I know how difficult this conference is. Where we are at this point, there is not an easy one on the schedule. What we have to convince our team to do from day one, is not worry about where we are going to finish in the SEC. We need to be worried about our first match at Buffalo. Everything we do as coaches and players has to be to make sure we figure out the right rotation and go into that match energized and ready for the season. Then we work our way from there."
Stay tuned for a preview of the Rebels' upcoming trip to Italy. The team will leave on May 25 for 10 days, landing in Prague, Czech Republic, before heading to Italy where they will play several matches.
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