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Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Aug. 31

This is a new concept we've created for the Ole Miss Sports Blog that we're calling Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss sports. Some of these will be stat nuggets, some of these will be links to great work from other people, and some will simply be casual observations about a game/subject/whatever. Sometimes I'll be posting these weekly features, sometimes it will be Austin Miller, and sometimes we'll team up for it. We'll keep it professional, of course, but we're also going to have some fun with this because it is a blog after all. Let's get started:

1.) Great season-opening win by the Ole Miss football team. Was it always pretty? No. Does it matter? Not really. At the end of the day, the Rebels are 1-0, which is a fact half the teams in the country cannot say.

2.) He plays a position that doesn't always (OK, ever) get a whole lot of attention, but can we please give a shout out to Will Gleeson? The Punter from Down Under was a beast Thursday night against Boise State. Not only did he punt for distance, he also punted with precision, landing three of his four punts inside the Broncos' 20-yard line, including a 70-yarder that stopped at the 7.

3.) Here's a nice story on Gleeson from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger from back on Aug. 10. Check it out.

4.) We had read and heard about the Ole Miss defense throughout fall camp, but when they're going against the Ole Miss offense there (obviously) aren't any big hits so as to prevent injury. Well, my guess is those defensive players had a little energy built up. There were some absolutely massive hits Thursday from a number of folks. Check out this Vine showing three of the bigger hits: https://vine.co/v/MlV2vObKAxE.

5.) In camp, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said he expected really big things from sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. The former consensus No. 1 overall recruit didn't disappoint. While his stats weren't necessarily eye-opening, if you watched the game you saw how much attention he drew from the Broncos, which thus freed up his teammates for three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I really liked this quote from Nkemdiche after the game: "The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity. You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."

6.) Senquez Golson had a big-time game for the Rebels against Boise State. The senior from Pascagoula, Mississippi, made a game-high tying eight solo tackles, including one tackle for a loss and he also had a key interception in the end zone.

7.) Speaking of that interception in the end zone, the key to the game may have been the Rebels' defense bending but never breaking in the first half. Boise State had two drives stall inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line. In total, the Broncos ran seven plays inside the Ole Miss 5 and came away with just three points. If Boise State scores two touchdowns there the whole game could have been different.

8.) Stop me if you've heard this before: Cody Prewitt picked off a pass. The first team All-American picked up right where he left off a year ago when he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions.

9.) While there wound up being a lot of good that came from Thursday's game, there were also a couple head scratchers. Fourteen penalties is a whale of a number, first game or not, and that's surely something Coach Freeze and the rest of the Rebel coaching staff will be focusing on prior to their next game at Vanderbilt. Of the 14 penalties, half came as a result of false start calls ... in the first half.

10.) Ole Miss will also look to kick start its running game its next time out. Ole Miss finished the day with 34 rushes for just 71 yards and a touchdown. I, for one, believe the Ole Miss running back corps is a position of strength and the remainder of the year will be a different story.

11.) Here's a fun fact: With Thursday's win, Ole Miss Football is now 8-0 all-time in the month of August.

12.) Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? Do yourself a favor and click here to check it out: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=164946. He's the best photographer in the biz, folks. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.

13.) What a great weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team as it kicked off the Steven McRoberts era in grand fashion by going 4-0 in Buffalo, New York, at the Buffalo Classic.

14.) The Rebels didn't drop a set throughout the entirety of the tournament. The Rebels' 4-0 start is their best start since 2007, and it's their first time opening a season without dropping a set in their first four matches since 1984. Wow. The volleyball team will play in three matches next week (Sept. 5-6) in nearby Memphis, Tennessee, before hosting two tournaments in back-to-back weekends Sept. 11-12 and Sept. 18-20.

15.) The Ole Miss soccer team also continued its strong start to the year with a 1-1 weekend that saw it bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Louisville on Friday with a 5-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium on Sunday. Love seeing a team respond from its first loss with five goals and a victory.

16.) The soccer team is now 2-1-1 after facing four tough opponents to open the season. Come on out to support your Rebels this upcoming week for two home games against Minnesota and Memphis on Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, respectively. It's a fun environment and the team really feeds off a strong crowd.

Here are three pieces to keep in mind as we look ahead to the Ole Miss volleyball team's season-opening weekend in Buffalo, New York, starting with Canisius on Friday morning, the first of four matches over three days at the Buffalo Classic.

Staying with the Process

A program with three NCAA Tournament appearances in its history, Ole Miss is coming off a 14-17 season and was picked to finish 10th in the league. The overall goal remains going undefeated every weekend, but playing with confidence and playing within their system are also part of the process to build a successful program in the Southeastern Conference.

"The bottom line for us as coaches is to not lose our vision of what the process is, based on putting some band-aids on things just to get a win," McRoberts said. "In the long run, if we do things the right way we're going to get the wins. And if we stick with what we have been doing, we're going to get wins. We need to keep coaching the same way we have been coaching."

Depth on Both Sides of the Net

McRoberts said Monday they hadn't 100 percent settled on a lineup, and they will go into the weekend with two lineups - more than likely trying each one in their matches on the first day against Canisius and Siena. For McRoberts, it speaks to the team's depth and ability to play different players in different positions. That depth, he said, also helps in practice to prepare his team for live matches.

"You want, like any sport wants, it to be competitive on the other side in practice," McRoberts said. "The other side of the net pushes our rotation every day. That's what makes us better. It's fun when you can get into a match and your team is thinking, 'Our other side of the net is better than this. We should handle this team.' From a practice standpoint, you try to make it feel like a match every day, so when you know you have multiple people who can play both sides it's nice."

Who to Watch for

Sophomore setter Aubrey Edie and junior middle blocker Nakeyta Clair, McRoberts noted, are players who have stood out through the spring and fall. Edie, who made the U.S. National Collegiate Team, led the team in assists per set and double-doubles, while Clair led the team in kills and hitting percentage last season. But there's talent throughout the roster beyond them.

"We have multiple players who on any given night can really stand out," McRoberts said. "That's the fun part, too. We have some athleticism. For us, maybe it will be some sleepless nights wondering who's going to show up. We have a lot of players who can have great nights."

Ole Miss and the SEC Network Launch

The SEC Network will debut at 5 p.m. CT Thursday with its flagship news and information show, SEC Now, live from all 14 SEC campuses.

The debut of SEC Now on Thursday will be a three-hour special hosted by Dari Nowkhah and Maria Taylor, and they will be joined by Brent Musburger, Paul Finebaum, Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland. There will be live whip-around reporting from each of the school's 14 campuses, with reporter Kaylee Hartung stationed at Ole Miss.

The three-hour special will be followed by the premiere of "SEC Storied: The Stars of Aligned" at 8 p.m. CT and will feature Shepard Smith representing Ole Miss.

The first two weeks of the network will also feature customized programming to feature 14 schools in 14 days. The "Best of Ole Miss" block of programming will air on Monday, Aug. 18 starting at 11 p.m. CT and will include "SEC Storied: Book of Manning," the 2008 game vs. Florida, the 2002 game vs. Florida, the 2003 game vs. Auburn and the 2013 game vs. LSU. The first two weeks will also include the soccer team's season opener vs. Georgia on Friday, Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. CT. 

During the fall season, Ole Miss has 10 games scheduled to be featured live on the SEC Network, with the possibility of that number increasing with additional football games being picked up by the channel during the season. Ole Miss also has 30 total soccer and volleyball matches that will be offered exclusively as SEC Network+ events on WatchESPN and SECNetwork.com.

More from Ole Miss Sports:

Ole Miss to be Featured Heavily on SEC Network

Ole Miss-SEC Network Info

More from ESPN:

SEC Network Debuts with School-Specific Programming for First Two Weeks on Air

SEC Network and SEC Network + Now Available on WatchESPN

More from SEC Network:

The SEC Network Channel Finder

Ole Miss All-Access Preview

"Buy-in" is a common term thrown around by coaches. How will first-year Ole Miss head volleyball coach Steven McRoberts measure buy-in, as the team continues its preseason work for the upcoming season? Attitude and effort.

"If we bring those two things, we're going to be successful," McRoberts said. "I really do. And I even mean that from a wins standpoint."

A program with three NCAA Tournament appearances in its history, Ole Miss is coming off a 14-17 season, but McRoberts is confident in the process to build a successful program in the Southeastern Conference.

"My expectation for us is to stay with the process and understand that to get to the middle and then to the top of the conference, we have to all be on the same page," McRoberts said. "We have to pay attention to details. We have to do the right things on the court and off the court. A lot of this is going to be a culture change that we need.

"From a winning and losing standpoint, I don't know with what we're doing and who we have how that equates with who we're playing against because I haven't been through the SEC yet."

Through the first part of preseason camp, the focus has been ball control and limiting errors by extending rallies and being good with the ball. The team has battled the fatigue of two-a-days, but McRoberts is hopeful the team will improve their conditioning and fewer mental errors will follow.

"Sometimes you come back and feel like you picked up right where you left off in the spring, and sometimes there's some frustration with having to re-teach some things that we have already taught," McRoberts said. "Some of the re-teaching we did early has been picked up on really fast, and then there are other things that we consistently have to remind the team about. We're on target for where we want to be, but I also expect us in the next two or three days to be picking up our play."

Ole Miss opens the 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29 against Canisius, the first of four games in the Buffalo Classic hosted by the University at Buffalo.

Rebels Send Goss, Morgan Out With Win

Ole Miss sent seniors Kellie Goss and Kara Morgan out with a win as the Rebels topped LSU 3-2 on Senior Night.

"It was a great win," head coach Joe Getzin said. "We tweaked the lineup, and one of our seniors Kellie Goss, who has played an important role as a utility player all her career, came in off the bench and had one of the best nights of her career. Both of our seniors had a great last match. They held their emotions in check knowing it was their last match, and both of them did a great job."

"This past practice, our coach told us to say our favorite memory thus far in our career here, and we both said beating LSU in five (sets) our sophomore year," Goss said. "We replicated it tonight, and it was the best feeling ever. 

Goss finished with a season-high 10 kills, while Morgan nearly had a double-double with seven kills and 12 digs. The Rebels also got a big lift from freshman Aubrey Edie who set a program record with 61 assists. Freshman Melanie Crow and sophomore Ty Laporte also had season-high kills with 18 and 16, respectively. Sophomore Nakeyta Clair joined Crow with a team-high 18 kills.

"We have been in that situation where we have been up 2-0 on people and we haven't taken care of business," Getzin said. "We were intense throughout and kept putting pressure on them."

Morgan finishes her four-year career as the program's fourth all-time leader with 927 kills, having also led the team with 311 kills and 30 service aces as a junior. 

"It's not about the numbers; I take away the friendships that I have made," Morgan said. "Kellie and I have been together for four years. It's been a great experience."

For Goss, her 10 kills Wednesday was the second-most of her career, having finished with 12 kills in that same five-set win over LSU her sophomore year. 

"I can't say enough about Kellie Goss," Getzin said. "A lot of times role players don't get the accolades they deserve, but you can't run a team without someone like her giving up what she truly wants to do for the betterment of the team from time to time and playing an understudy when it was needed. Without that kind of buy-in from someone like Kellie, a team doesn't function, so I couldn't be prouder of her."

"That's probably the best send-off I could possibly imagine," Goss said. "It was the greatest feeling ever, and I couldn't have done it without my teammates and coaches supporting me the whole time."

Goss and Morgan came in together as freshmen in the 2010 season, during which the Rebels earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Three years later, they finish their respective careers on a high note.

"Kellie and I have one of the strongest relationships on the team," Morgan said. "We don't have to constantly be around each other for us to have that relationship. We have each other's backs no matter what."

"We don't even have to speak sometimes to know what each other are thinking," Goss said. "We have a close relationship and it will continue on forever."

Cunningham Engineers Dreams

Photo Gallery

Courtney Cunningham is a builder. While playing volleyball for Ole Miss from 2009-11, Cunningham helped build the Rebels into an NCAA Tournament team while also earning her civil engineering degree. From that degree, Cunningham is helping build dreams, including her own.


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Cunningham spent two weeks this past August in Togo with Engineers Without Borders where she helped with the first phase of a 5- to 10-year project to build a school for one of the communities in the West African nation.

While the group faced many obstacles, they were able to pour two slabs for each classroom, put up all the columns to the correct height and set up an L-shape concrete beam for one of the classrooms.

"We came into a lot of obstacles that prevented us from getting the classrooms done in time," Cunningham said. "That's what happens whenever you go to a foreign country and you don't speak the language. There are always some difficulties you come across."

Cunningham described the typical day, in which they worked from sun up to sun down, in two words: very hot.

"We are so blessed here, and to go over there and have all those challenges put in front of us, and as engineers, we had to figure it out," she said. "They gave us the wrong shipment of rocks for our concrete mix and gravel, so we had to sort rocks. I took that challenge upon myself. It was very tedious, but it needed to be done. And it was a great way to get the kids involved.

"We would measure out an inch on the wheelbarrow. We put the rocks in there, and if it did not fit we would throw it out, and if it did fit we kept it in the wheelbarrow. You can only imagine how challenging this was because none of the kids spoke English, they all spoke French."

Cunningham left Togo on Aug. 21, spent a day in Oxford and then drove to Houston, where she now works as an engineer in training (EIT) for Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam. There, she helps design plans for clients while also learning from the professional engineers (PE) above her.

"Transportation engineering was not really what I worked on when I was in Togo, but the lessons I learned from Togo are helping me here," Cunningham said. "I learned how to deal with difficulties. Everything is not going to go right in engineering; you just have to find a way to make it work. It kind of goes back to volleyball and the classroom as well. You always encounter issues, and something not going right; it's how you and your mindset can make the problem better or fix it."

It's a five-year process from EIT to PE, during which Cunningham has to keep a record of all the projects she works on and then take an exam. That professional engineering license, Cunningham said, is her end goal, what she's working for and her everything right now, but she also sees something beyond the license.

"The dream career is to travel while doing engineering and get to a point where I can call myself a project manager," Cunningham said. "That's the end goal for me. That's what my eye is on right now."

Clair, Edie Key 2-1 Week For Rebels

Coming off its first and only bye week of the season, Ole Miss wrapped up a five-game, 10-day stretch, which included a top-10 team in Missouri in Columbia, Mo., and three other road matches

The Rebels finished 2-3 over the five games, which included a 2-1 mark this past week, with 3-1 road wins over Mississippi State and Tennessee, and then a 3-1 home loss to Texas A&M Sunday.

"We did some really good things," head coach Joe Getzin said. "It's a process to learn how to compete more than one day and having to come back and do it again even when you're a little bit fatigue, and hopefully they learn that as young players to be able to respond."

Sophomore Nakeyta Clair had a team-high 47 kills for the week, including a career-high 19 kills against Mississippi State. She also had 15 kills against Tennessee and a team-high 13 kills against Texas A&M. Clair ranks third all-time in single-season program history in block solos (21), block assists (88) and total blocks (109).

"I was looking at the court and finding a spot to put the ball, and it's been working pretty well," Clair said. "That's a big thing, and picking up my blocking."

A large part of Clair's success can also be credited to freshman setter Aubrey Edie, who is averaging a team-high 9.22 assists per set, ninth best in the SEC and second best among freshmen in the SEC. She also had a pair of double-doubles this week with 42 assists and 12 digs against Mississippi State and 47 assists and 10 digs against Tennessee.

"Our relationship has improved so much since the first game," Clair said. "She knows me now and where to put the ball for me. If we mess up, she knows it's OK, because she will set me again. We have grown a lot."


The Ole Miss volleyball team won its first tournament championship of the season, with three wins this weekend in the Rebel Classic, its second tournament at the Gillom Sports Center.

Ole Miss swept Southern Miss, 3-0, on Friday night, then swept Chattanooga, 3-0, on Saturday afternoon, and clinched the tournament championship with a 3-1 win over Louisiana, winning three straight sets after dropping the first set.

"We proved that we can win, even when we're not on the top of our game," head coach Joe Getzin said. "We still have things to improve on, but the biggest thing is we took care of business in all three matches.



Sophomore Nakeyta Clair, an SEC All-Freshman selection last year, won Tournament MVP honors, while freshmen Melanie Crow and Aubrey Edie were named to the All-Tournament team. Clair led the team with 12 kills against Southern Miss and 13 kills against Chattanooga.

"I connected well with Aubrey my setter, and it seemed like every time she set me the ball, I got a kill, and I got on a roll this weekend," Clair said.

In the tournament finale, Louisiana won the first set, 25-20, then behind five kills from senior Kara Morgan, Ole Miss rallied to win the second set, 25-19. The Rebels closed things out, winning the third set, 25-15, and the fourth set, 25-14.

"We did a great job of adjusting and putting pressure back on them," Getzin said of the Louisiana win. "Lousiana played a great match in the first set, and we got a little frustrated with that, then we settled down and started putting pressure on them, and things started rolling our way."

Sophomore Ty Laporte led all Rebels with 10 kills and 12.5 points, followed by Morgan with nine kills and 11 points, while Tournament MVP Nakeyta Clair had nine seven kills. to go along with two block assists. Edie led the team with 33 assists, and freshman Kristen Brashear led the team with 14 digs.

The Rebels finish nonconference play with a 10-3 record and continue their five-match home stand, as they open Southeastern Conference play next weekend against Arkansas on Friday (7:00 p.m. CT) and Florida on Sunday (1:30 p.m. CT).

"We're excited to be opening up at home," Getzin said. "I like our team. We're doing good things. We're young, but we keep coming and getting strong every day."

Aubrey Edie Knows Hard Work Will Pay Off

The grind of preseason camp can be taxing for anyone. For Ole Miss volleyball freshman setter Aubrey Edie, preseason camp has been a lot of hard work, but she says it's work that she knows will pay off. Edie comes to Oxford from Fayetteville, Ark., where she was a three-time All-State selection and helped guide Fayetteville High School to a state championship her senior year.


Volleyball Holds Red-Blue Scrimmage


The Ole Miss volleyball team held its Red-Blue Scrimmage Saturday as part of the Meet The Rebels activities. The team scrimmaged four sets at the Gillom Sports Center, in preparation for its 2013 season. Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin mentioned sophomore defensive specialist Evan St. Laurent and freshman outside hitter Margaret Eggert as players who stood out from the scrimmage. St. Laurent had 23 digs, second-most in the scrimmage, and Eggert had 12 kills, also second-most in the scrimmage, and 10 digs. 

Sophomore middle blocker Ty Laporte, an SEC all-freshman selection last season, led all players with 14 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Nakeya Clair, also an SEC all-star freshman selection last season, had 10 kills and nine blocks (three solo). A couple of other standouts included sophomore setter Skylar Johnson (match-high 31 assists, 13 digs), junior defensive specialist Rachael McLamore (match-high 27 digs), senior outside hitter Kara Morgan (14 digs, 11 kills) and freshman defensive specialist Kristen Brashear, who led all players with four service aces. 

Ole Miss opens the 2013 season on Friday, August 30 in Washington, D.C., with matches against UMBC, Maryland and George Washington. The Rebels return home the following weekend for the Magnolia Invitational, including the home opener on Friday, Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. against Kennesaw State.

Kara Morgan Talks Preseason

Ole Miss volleyball senior outside hitter Kara Morgan talked after practice Wednesday evening about how preseason practice has gone thus far, how the freshmen are looking and about entering her senior year, among other things. Take a look:

Springer, Thomas Enjoying Life Overseas

Thomas-Springer Pic 1.jpg They said it was as if no time had passed since they'd last seen each other. In reality, it had been months, and former Rebel volleyball players Morgan Springer and Regina Thomas were no longer in Oxford, Miss., digging and killing their way into the Ole Miss record books, instead, they were walking the historic and beautiful streets of Denmark.
   
Life has changed in a big way for the former Ole Miss libero and middle blocker, but volleyball remains a constant. Springer, the Ole Miss career digs record holder, lives in Brondby, Denmark, which sits about 20 minutes outside Copenhagen. Thomas, a two-time All-America selection by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, lives in Ljungby, Sweeden.

For Springer, life overseas has been wonderful. She lives with two other Americans and a Brazilian, and said she has loved learning about the country and its culture.

"I have noticed people in Denmark are very eco-friendly," Springer said. "Everyone here recycles and most people take public transportation or rides bikes. We ride our bikes daily to the gym and to the grocery. I have also noticed there is a lot more history to be seen here in Denmark. The towns and cities in Denmark are filled with very old buildings and streets. It's pretty awesome to walk down the streets of the city and experience all the history around me."

The volleyball season for Springer lasts seven months. Four matches in, the Louisville, Ky., native's team is currently atop the Danish league, but with three matches against each team in the league, there is still a lot of volleyball to be played. Recently, Springer's team swept a hard fought match, and she was named the Player of the Game following their first match of the season.

Thomas is playing for the Ljungby Volleyball Klub, where her head coach was an assistant at the 2012 Olympics with the Great Britain men's team. Thomas said one of the differences between the play in Europe and back home is the independence.

"You really have to be responsible for yourself," Thomas said. "Our coaches trust us to do our own workouts. There's no one over your shoulder, but you better make sure you're doing what you need to be doing or it'll show."

Similar to Springer, the season is young for Thomas' team, but she has already been named player of the game twice in her team's first five matches.

A few weeks ago, the two former Ole Miss stars got to get together in Denmark and relished the opportunity to catch up.

"It was great to see Regina in Denmark," Springer said. "She was the first person I had seen from home that I knew before coming to Denmark. It was like no time had passed since we had last seen each other. I was able to take her into the city and show her around."

"Seeing Morgan was great," Thomas said. "I drove with my coach, who was actually meeting his girlfriend there, and then I took a train into her town. Figuring out the train on my own was quite the adventure, but we had a great time. We went into the city, did some shopping, had dinner with her roommates and just hung out. I actually got to watch her play the next day too which was nice. She has a very talented group of girls on her team."

While Thomas is enjoying her time overseas, she said there is one thing she misses that she didn't think she would.

"I miss school," Thomas said. "I just miss that challenge. When we're here our only focus is volleyball, nothing else. Back at home we had more to juggle and I found that fun."

Posters and Desktop Backgrounds - All about personalizing...

When it comes to marketing our teams, nothing is more effective than creating strong connections between fans and student-athletes.  However, in today's changing world of college athletics, this can be a challenge.  The vast TV exposure and huge stadiums coupled with new practice facilities and student-athlete academic centers have added to the "celebrity" of our student-athlete, while unintentionally limiting the fan's access to them.  So personalizing and humanizing our student-athletes is something we must be creative about.  

If you are around Oxford soon, you'll notice all new posters for Football, Soccer and Volleyball.  Each poster features just one student-athlete in an "up close and personal" way.  Each team has multiple posters, so if you see a Mike Marry poster at one restaurant, next door may have a Donte Moncrief or Charles Sawyer poster.  Same goes for Rebel Volleyball and Soccer, so enjoy the new designs!  


The personalization 
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doesn't stop there.  Click here to check out (and download for free) our all new desktop backgrounds - these feature even more student-athlete options for each team in season.  They
even have the schedule included so you always know when the Rebels are playing!  We hope you enjoy these new ways we are giving you a more inside look at what makes Ole Miss so special - our student-athletes.

Follow me on twitter @MTJROleMiss.

Sample Posters:
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volleyball_poster2.jpg


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