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Volleyball hits road for two matches

The Lady Rebels look to bounce back from a disappointing match and put themselves into position to become eligible for the NCAA tournament. The team must have a record of .500 or better to become eligible.
Tyler Jackson/The Daily Mississippian

The Ole Miss Lady Rebels (10-11, 4-8 SEC) will hit the road for the first time in three weeks this weekend when they take on the Kentucky Wildcats and the LSU Tigers. The Lady Rebels are coming off a straight-set loss to Auburn on Sunday after wins against Missouri and South Carolina the weekend before. 
The past two weekends are a tale of two different Lady Rebel teams. Two weeks ago, in a weekend sweep over Missouri and South Carolina, Ole Miss averaged almost 60 kills and 62 digs. On Sunday, Ole Miss only killed 31 balls, half of its average from the previous weekend, and tallied 38 digs. 
“I just don’t think we did a good job of mentally preparing ourselves to take on a really good team,” head coach Joe Getzin said. “When the whistle blows, it’s still volleyball, and you have to play.”
The Wildcats (15-8, 9-4) enter Friday night’s matchup second in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, three and a half games behind undefeated Florida. Four players with more than 200 kills lead Kentucky, while Ole Miss only has one in junior outside hitter Kara Morgan. 
Junior outside hitter Whitney Billings and senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier lead the group of four with 257 and 255 kills, respectively. Senior setter Christine Hartmann was honored as this week’s SEC Offensive Player of the Week; it was the second time in three weeks she has won the award. Hartmann recorded nine kills, 52 assists and 11 digs in the match with Tennessee last Friday, and then on Sunday, she had 58 assists and 19 digs. She averages 10.75 assists per set, third in the SEC. 
“When Kentucky was here, I thought they played a really good match,” he said. “I don’t think we matched up well against them, so I think we’ll try to match things up a little bit differently. We have to respond to what they bring.”
LSU (10-13, 6-8) has a middle blocker and an outside hitter with more than 300 kills. Junior Desiree Elliott leads the Tigers with 304 kills, and senior Madie Jones is second on the team with 303. 
Led by senior defensive specialist Meghan Mannari’s 285 digs, LSU ranks first in the conference in that category. Senior defensive specialist Sam Delahoussaye is second on the team with 274, and sophomore outside hitter Helen Boyle’s 216 digs place her at third on the team. The Tigers are solid on defense, with two other players that have recorded at least 190 digs. 
“It’s always a good match between the two of us,” he said. “I think they’ll bring it from the beginning. I think physically we match okay with them, it’s just a matter of us being able to hang in there long enough to have a game plan work for us.”
Ole Miss travels to Kentucky Friday night at 7 p.m. CT, and then will take on LSU at 3 p.m. in Baton Rouge. CST will broadcast the match against the Tigers. 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss volleyball, follow @thedm_sports and @CamalPetro on Twitter.