By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss volleyball team opens its season Thursday evening as they welcome the Texas A&M Aggies into the Gillom Athletics Sports Center for the first of a two-night match. The first serve is set for 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Head Coach Kayla Banwarth begins her first-year leading the Rebels. She is an eight-time Team USA medalist and has made seven appearances in the postseason as both a player and coach at Nebraska.
“First couple matches will be a really big test for us, and this new program we’re starting, but the girls are really fired up,” Banwarth said. “I’ve been told that A&M is their biggest SEC rival, so I’m on board with that 100%.”
The Rebels returning to the court are senior captains Lauren Bars and Bayleigh Scott, as well as junior captain Aubrey Sultemeier.
Bars ranks fourth all-time in program rally-scoring history with 2,640 assists. She needs just 187 to move into third place for all-time.
Sultemeier, who holds the record for most solo rejections ever by a freshman at Ole Miss with 30, enters the season with 202 total blocks and needs just 38 to crack the rally-scoring Top 10.
Banwarth and her staff added several new faces to their 2020 roster. Joining the squad after two seasons at Clemson is setter Gabby Easton. Seven freshmen join Ole Miss, including attackers GG Carvacho and Samantha Schnitta, who both carry a semester of experience under their belt after joining the team last spring.
Texas A&M is fresh off a 2019 Sweet 16 appearance, and return 11 members from last year’s squad, including five starters. All-SEC setter Camille Conner is back after a season where she averaged 10.01 assists per set. Outside hitter Lauren Davis also returns, after a season where she totaled over 250 kills and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
After taking on LSU in Bryan-College Station during the first weekend of SEC play, the Aggies swept the Tigers 3-0 in their first match of the weekend with 11 kills from Camryn Ennis. It took five matches on Sunday to defeat LSU in a 3-2 win to start the 2020 season 2-0.
Ole Miss and Texas A&M are no strangers on the court, as this will be the 19 all-time meeting between the two programs. The Aggies hold a 16-2 advantage in the program.