RUSTON, La. — After three weeks of intense meetings, practices and scrimmages, the Louisiana Tech volleyball team will head out on the road to begin its 2017 regular season in Oxford, Mississippi, at the Rebel Invitational.
Tech will open the Invitational Friday at 11 a.m. against the host Ole Miss Rebels in the newly-renovated Gillom Sports Center. A charged atmosphere will certainly be expected as the match is the first showcasing the new additions to the facility. The match can be seen live on SEC Network +. LA Tech head coach Adriano de Souza is looking forward to the challenge this first match presents.
“Having the opportunity to play the host in the first math in their new arena is a great motivator for us,” de Souza said. “It brings us the opportunity to start our season with a very strong match that means a lot for both teams.”
There will be no shortage of challenges for the Lady Techsters throughout the weekend as Ole Miss, North Dakota and Chattanooga all finished last season among the top 150 in RPI. Tech is 4-4 all-time against Ole Miss, but has never faced Florida A&M, North Dakota or Chattanooga.
LA Tech returns four seniors from last season in Nia Myah Johnson, Jacie McClure, Marta Monne and Brooke Short. Monne finished the 2017 season as one of only two players in Conference USA to accumulate 300+ kills and 300+ digs. Johnson will look to carry more of the offensive load this season after posting 95 kills in 2016. McClure is slated as the defensive leader of this year’s team, after stepping up with 345 digs last season. Short’s consistency as the primary setter will be key to the success of the Tech offense. Last season, she impressed with a team-best 1,014 assists and 30 service aces.
“We have mixed experience in this group of seniors,” de Souza noted. “Marta is starting her fifth year with us and she has worked hard on having a positive mindset this season. Jacie and Brooke are starting their fourth seasons with us and both are now much more prepared to take the task ahead of them. Nia is in her second season as a transfer and has showed in practice that she is really willing to make a difference this season. Day in and day out, their leadership this season will be critical to our success.”
The Techsters will also feature some fairly new faces to the court this season, welcoming six freshman and returning five sophomores culminating in 11 underclassmen. Coach de Souza has been impressed with the incoming players and the spark they’ve provided throughout fall camp.
“Our incoming players have already demonstrated their attention to detail and their commitment to make a mark in the program in their first year,” de Souza concluded. “They are competitive. They are intelligent and they have showed that they can take instruction and lead when necessary.”
Scouting the Competition
Ole Miss — Tech is 4-4 all-time against the Rebels and will look to gain an advantage in the series on Saturday. Ole Miss head coach Steven McRoberts returns three key pieces in senior outside hitters Lexi Thompson (437 kills in 2016) and Kate Gibson (427 kills in 2016) along with junior libero Caroline Adams (376 digs in 2016). The Rebels were picked to finish 12th in the SEC after compiling a 6-12 league record last season.
Florida A&M — The Rattlers boast three Preseason First Team all-MEAC Selections, including the 2016 MEAC Rookie of the Year. FAMU garnered 20 of 25 possible first-place votes as favorites to win the league once again this season. This will be the first ever meeting between Tech and FAMU.
North Dakota — The Fighting Hawks won their second Big Sky Conference regular season title last year, and their first since 2013. They ended the 2016 season on a tear, rattling off 11 straight wins and dropping just three sets en route to an NCAA Tournament berth. Tech will look to get on the right side of the record book, playing North Dakota in volleyball for the first time.
Chattanooga — Another first-time opponent for the Lady Techsters, the Mocs are coming off a 19-13 season that saw a Southern Conference Championship appearance. The last two years for Chattanooga mark the most successful two-year stretch in the program’s history since the 1997-98 seasons. UTC is a combined 18-8 in non-conference matches during that span.
Live stats and streaming links (when available) can be found on the Ole Miss Volleyball website, which is linked at the top of this page. Follow LA Tech Volleyball on Twitter: @LATechVB for live updates throughout the season