Dec. 24, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. – The 2012 season for the Ole Miss volleyball team was one of varying emotions. There was excitement, disappointment and validation, but perhaps most of all, coaches and student-athletes alike felt a sense of unfinished business.
A big part in finishing that business in 2013 will come from junior co-captain Kara Morgan and freshmen Nakeyta Clair and Ty Laporte.
Morgan, hammered down a team-high 311 kills this season, the third most in program history for a single season during the rally scoring era (playing to 25). She also had a career-high 30 service aces in 2012, the most in single-season history during the rally scoring era (playing to 25).
“Kara is, as a captain for our team, going to continue to improve in that role with her leadership skills,” Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin said. “But more importantly, it’s what she brings to the court every day. She leads our team in kills per set, and she carries a heavy load there. We’re excited for her to be a senior and really kind of just grab the reins and run with it.”
The rookie duo of Clair and Laporte combined to be a force in the middle for Ole Miss both offensively and defensively, and finished the year with SEC All-Freshman team accolades.
“It’s really exciting to have that type of athleticism in the middle as a coach because there’s so much you can do with it,” Getzin said. “They both progressed very nicely, and they both have come along a little bit differently. The numbers they put up as freshmen, rank up there with the best in the league. That’s extremely exciting moving forward.”
Over the final six weeks of the season, Laporte and Clair ranked second and third on the team, respectively, in kills, while Clair nearly doubled all other Rebels in blocks during the same 11-match stretch with 44, and Laporte was third on the team with 21. For her play over the final six weeks of the season, Clair was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice.
“They have a lot to learn. They’re still a ways away from their ceiling as far as understanding the game and how to react to the game,” Getzin said. “That’s the neat part, is that they’ve just kind of broken the surface of how good they can be.”
The Rebels got great play from seniors Amanda Philpot, Ashley Veach and Allegra Wells. Philpot, the Rebels’ setter, finished the year with an SEC-leading three triple doubles, the only player in the conference to record multiple triple-doubles this season. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native who transferred to Ole Miss as a sophomore from Georgetown College, finished second in school history in assists and tied for sixth in service aces during the rally scoring era (playing to 25), and her 989 assists in 2012 are a new program high.
“The way she transferred in from an NAIA school and the career she ended up having here at Ole Miss really showed what type of player Amanda was,” Getzin said. “She did some pretty amazing things. The triple-doubles speak for themselves. Also, the consistency with which she came to practice day-in and day-out was a great example for everyone else.”
Veach flourished in her first year starting at the libero position after sitting behind Morgan Springer, Ole Miss’ career leader in digs during the rally scoring era (playing to 25), last season. Veach had 469 digs in 2012, the second most in Rebels history, and finished her career with 949 digs, the fifth most in program history during the rally scoring era.
“Ashley really stepped up into a very good role for us this year,” Getzin said. “She had played behind Morgan Springer a bit, but I think she put up comparable numbers to Morgan all along. She had a great senior campaign.”
Wells, Ole Miss’ right side hitter, one of the best athletes in the SEC, finished her career fifth all-time in kills, sixth in solo blocks, third in block assists and sixth in total blocks during the rally scoring era (playing to 25).
“You look at Allegra’s progression through her career, and she got better every year,” Getzin said. “I was really pleased to see her numbers improve, and she had a great senior campaign.”
Not only did the seniors perform on the court though, they also performed in the classroom, as Ole Miss will have six seniors graduating this year.
“It’s the type of players we recruit and the support they get here at Ole Miss,” Getzin said. “All of them are graduating in four years or less. Ashley Anderson graduated in December in 3.5 years. Once again, I think it speaks volumes to the support we get from our academic support services and what the kids put forth in making it a priority for them. They’re all going to do very well in the next phase of their lives.”
The Rebels will certainly miss their senior class, but are also excited about what the future holds. Not only does Getzin believe the incoming freshman class is one of the best during his 11 years with the Rebels, but the in-match experience Ole Miss got from five of its seven freshmen should pay dividends in 2013.
“Any time you’re getting freshmen playing time, and quality playing time, it’s good,” said Getzin about having five freshmen earn playing time. “They then understand a little bit more and it helps them have a better perspective in the spring what we are going to do and what it takes to be successful at the next level. We’ve given them some great opportunities for that to happen.”
The only two freshmen who did not see match action, Lauren Douglass and redshirt freshman Skylar Johnson, both had to sit out due to lingering injuries. With a healthy outlook for 2013, Getzin and the Rebels will look to Douglass and Johnson to play big roles next season.
“Skylar Johnson is going to play a huge role,” Getzin said. “She plays a huge role in our gym, and has for the last two years as a practice player. We’re looking to transition her into more of a playing role this upcoming year. We also get Lauren Douglass back from some injuries and illness.”
While Ole Miss didn’t post the final record it had set out for at the beginning of the 2012 campaign, team performances and individual accolades give the Rebels hope and excitement for 2013. The Rebels won the Magnolia Invitational for the sixth straight year, outscored their opponents in player points (kills + aces + blocks), and finished strong by going toe-to-toe with some of the SEC’s best.
“The 2012 season, while it didn’t live up to our expectations, had some very bright spots in it,” Getzin said. “With the players we have returning and the incoming freshman class, the future is very bright for Ole Miss volleyball. We look forward to getting back to the postseason and we believe this is a group that can do that. The state of the program is strong and it will continue to shine. The coaching staff and the players are all excited to get back in the gym January 23.”