NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Playing in its final non-conference weekend, Ole Miss volleyball split its matches at the SFA Tournament on Friday.
The Rebels (6-4, 0-0 SEC) fell in a five-set thriller against Tulsa but bounced back in the second match against Sam Houston. The defense was strong, setting a new program record for digs in the rally scoring era with 113 in the first match and followed it up with a season-low opponent hitting percentage (-.056) in the evening match.
MATCH ONE | OLE MISS 2, TULSA 3
Battling with Tulsa in the morning match, the Rebels nearly stormed back from a two-set deficit, but the Golden Hurricane fended off the attempt in the fifth set.
Anna Bair led Ole Miss with her third career double-double, finishing with 18 kills and 12 digs. Cammy Niesen also had a career day, totaling 34 digs, the most by a Rebel since 2010 and third most in a single match in program history.
A slow start turned into a big deficit for the Rebels in the opening set. They managed to fight back within three at 18-21 but couldn't close the gap on Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane took a tight second set with a late surge to go up two sets on Ole Miss.
Not backing down, the Rebels opened up the third set on a 6-1 run. Nia Washington gave Ole Miss a spark off the bench, tallying five of her eight total kills in the set. Payton Brgoch also got hot, recording four kills on five swings as the Rebels kept their foot on the gas and took the set 25-15.
Ole Miss continued to battle, gritting out a tight fourth set. Both teams went back and forth until a kill by Sasha Ratliff opened up a 3-0 run to create separation. The Rebels remained in front until Tulsa tied things up at 21, but it didn't last long as Ole Miss locked in to win the fourth set, 25-23.
After battling back to force a decisive fifth set, the Rebels ultimately ran out of steam. The momentum in the gym began to shift as Tulsa clawed its way back. Tied at 12 apiece, Ole Miss couldn't quite cap off its comeback attempt, falling 2-3.
MATCH TWO | OLE MISS 3, SAM HOUSTON 0
Ole Miss bounced back in the evening match, sweeping Sam Houston. Shayla Meyer led the Rebels with her first double-double, a career-best 10 kills and 11 digs. As a team, the defense held the Bearkats to a -.056 hitting percentage, the lowest mark all season.
The Rebels were lethal at the service line, with three aces in the first eight points of the match. Mayer had the offense rolling early as Ole Miss took care of business, winning the opening set 25-16.
Sam Houston kept things closer in the second set. Both teams were knotted up 13 times, with seven lead changes in the set. Tied at 23 all, Ole Miss remained composed defensively and took advantage of a pair of Bearkat errors to snag the set.
A 6-0 Rebel run broke things open in the third set as Ratliff and Brgoch quickly made it an 11-4 contest. Ole Miss hung onto the lead and cruised the rest of the way behind a strong .361 offensive clip in the set to cap off the sweep and split the day.
Ole Miss rounds out its non-conference slate on Saturday, facing off against the hosts, Stephen F. Austin at 1:30 p.m. CT.