OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss will face off against intrastate rival Mississippi State for the first time this year when the Rebel volleyball team hosts the Bulldogs Friday at 7 p.m. CT in its Southeastern Conference home opener at the Gillom Sports Center.
"We're looking forward to being back at home," Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin said. "We've only had the one tournament at home, so to get back to the friendly confines of the Gillom Center is always exciting for our team. We play well at home and our home crowd plays such a huge role in our girls feeling comfortable and confident in who they are as a team."
The volleyball rivalry between the Rebels (6-5, 0-2 SEC) and Bulldogs (4-7, 0-2 SEC) has been as close as possible with Getzin at the helm. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are an even 10-10 against each other since 2002, but the Rebels have won three of the series' last four matchups.
"As a rival school, it's always an exciting time," Getzin said. "You can throw out the records - in my tenure here we're at .500. It's been a battle back and forth and they always come to play. We have to respect them and be ready for a hard fought match."
Ten pairs of football tickets to the Oct. 6 game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M will be given away at Friday's match, and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive free t-shirts. For Ole Miss students, the match will serve as a double Rebel Rewards points match.
Each team won on the opposing team's floor last season, with the Bulldogs winning 3-2 in Oxford and Ole Miss topping Mississippi State 3-0 in Starkville.
Ole Miss opened conference play last weekend with a pair of road losses to Texas A&M and Missouri, which drew 1,981 fans and 2,332 fans, respectively. Getzin said a big crowd at the Gillom Center Friday night could help push the team against Mississippi State.
"It helps create an atmosphere where people are cheering for the things you do well," Getzin said. "Because of that, it helps our girls gain confidence and confidence always plays an important role in anyone's success. I think the crowd, because it is a smaller venue and everyone is so close to the action, plays a huge role for us."
Ole Miss has been led offensively this season by the play of junior outside hitter Kara Morgan, who has four double-doubles on the season and is averaging a team-high 3.22 kills per set. A Pickens, S.C., native, Morgan has recorded double-digit kills in eight matches this season and registered a career-high 20 kills in a five-set victory at Xavier earlier this year.
Senior setter Amanda Philpot has facilitated the Rebels' offense with a team-high 9.49 assists per set. The co-captain from Cincinnati, Ohio, has a team-high five double-doubles, including one triple-double (36 assists, 14 digs, 11 kills) in a three-set victory over Rice on Sept. 7. Philpot shined in the regular season tournaments to start the season, as she earned all-tournament honors for each of the three tournaments, including MVP honors at the Magnolia Invitational.
Senior libero Ashley Veach has been a defensive stalwart for the Rebels. Playing in her first season as the Rebels' libero, Veach's 5.02 digs per set average is currently the second highest in the SEC, and the 46th highest in the country. She tied the single-match program record against Xavier on Aug. 31 with a career-high 37 digs.
For all Ole Miss volleyball news and information, including a recap of Friday's match, live stats and results, go to OleMissSports.com. Follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissVB and go to Facebook at Ole Miss Volleyball.
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