OXFORD, Miss. - The day after Thanksgiving, when the Ole Miss volleyball team assembled for practice, they talked about if they were going to play in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, they would be in it to win it. Tuesday night in front of a season-high crowd of 1,012 at the Gillom Athletics Performance Center, the Rebels downed Texas Tech 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-19) to capture the championship.
Sophomore Emily Stroup was named NIVC Tournament MVP, while senior Kate Gibson and junior Caroline Adams earned All-Tournament Team honors. Stroup led the way again with her 12th double-double of the season, including a match-high 17 kills on a .353 clip.
Adams tallied 16 digs and became the single-season record holder now with 522. Gibson missed a double-double by one kill, posting 9 kills, 15 digs and adding 2 service aces and 2 blocks in her final match in a Rebel uniform.
Career kills record holder Lexi Thompson finished her career adding 9 kills and 12 digs to the cause.
It was an electric atmosphere, and the Rebels fed off of the crowd the entire night. The Rebels broke open a 6-6 tie early in set one to lead 12-8 as Texas Tech called timeout. Trailing 21-16, the Red Raiders used their final timeout, but alas, the Rebels prevailed 25-17 to take the early momentum.
Ole Miss led 9-5 early in set two and 15-10 at the media timeout. Following the timeout, the Rebels went on a 3-1 run to increase their lead to seven, 18-11. They never looked back leading by as much as 10 late and winning it 25-15 to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Stroup recorded 8 of her 17 kills in the third set and the Rebels, who trailed by one (14-15) at the media timeout, closed on an 11-4 run to win it 25-19 and the match.
• Ole Miss ended the year 22-14 equaling the most wins in the rally era.
• The Rebels ended the year on a six-match winning streak and earned their first postseason championship
• The Rebels are now 2-1 all-time against Texas Tech.
• Sophomore Emily Stroup earned NIVC Tournament MVP honors finishing the night with 17 kills on a .353 clip. For the tournament, Stroup totaled 76 kills (4.75 K/S) and hit .322. She also led all players with 85.5 points.
• Senior Kate Gibson tallied 9 kills, 15 digs, 2 service aces and 2 blocks in the win to earn All-Tournament Team honors.
• Junior Caroline Adams posted 16 digs and set the single-season record (522).
• Senior Lexi Thompson added 9 kills and 12 digs.
• Sophomore setter Jordan Fate recorded 19 assists and 5 digs, and freshman setter Lauren Bars dished out 17 assists.
• Sophomore middle blocker Nayo Warnell threw in 6 kills on a .385 attack percentage, while freshman middle blocker Bayleigh Scott chipped in 3 kills on a .750 clip and 3 blocks.
Talking to MVP Emily Stroup...
"These two (Kate and Lexi) are going to be so hard to replace next year. We had such a fun season in general and winning a championship just made it so much better."
Lexi Thompson on going out a winner...
"Coach talked about me and Kate leaving a legacy and this is a great way to go out. It sets the standard and I know the entire team feels amazing. It was a great team win. At the beginning of the season, we spoke about root to fruit and this is the start of everything. This is the start of our culture. We are really thankful that the NIVC started back up this year and we are thrilled to come out on top."
Kate Gibson on leaving a legacy...
"Even though it's the NIVC, we are so excited to be leaving here a champion, because we worked so hard for this. It's more than I could have ever asked for.
"I was asked before the match from one of the ESPN announcers about our seven core values and how we incorporated that every day. It was not forced on us, it was just a natural thing that happened on a daily basis with the entire team without even thinking about it. That's such a great start to turning this program around. Like Lexi said, this is the root and it can only grow from here."