Volleyball begins by hosting ranked opponent

Ole Miss upended No. 11 LSU in the regular season finale last season to cement the program's first NCAA Tournament berth. Now, the Rebels get a chance to build an early resume for this season by hosting No. 20 Missouri in the opening game of the Magnolia Invitational Friday at 7 p.m.

"It kind of surprised me that they were 20th in the country," Coach Joe Getzin said. "I knew they were a very solid team and are picked third in the Big XII. They are probably a little better than what I anticipated, but it is no different than facing a Tennessee or a Florida. We want to get exposed to that level. The girls are up to that challenge. It's a good opportunity for an upset win."

The season lid-lifter is the premier game of the four team round-robin event also consisting of Arkansas State and Jacksonville State. Ole Miss faces those teams Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively. All games will be played inside the Gillom Center on the Ole Miss campus and can be seen for free on OleMissSports.TV.

"Jacksonville State is a two-time Ohio Valley Conference champion," Getzin noted. They have had some big wins including No. 18 Louisville last season. They play a different style and will test us differently than we are used to. Arkansas State is a regional rival that we play nearly every season. They always give us a good match."

Excitement and expectations surround this year's team based on returning all but two players from the 2006 squad that competed in Los Angeles against USC in the NCAAs. Last year's group posted a 19-13 record including a 10-10 mark inside the conference.

One key for Ole Miss will be replacing All-SEC hitter Jaclyn Toohey. The 2006 senior was fourth in the SEC in kills with an average of 4.48 per game. The brunt of the offensive slack will be placed on senior outside hitter Katie Kramer, who recorded a team-high 438 kills last season.

"I feel like I am filling her void," Kramer said. "I am the person that Toohey was. I know that I can do it, but it is more responsibility that I have had in the past."

Kramer is also confident that the upcoming season can live up to the hype. But there is pressure. The kind that comes with expectations.

"We have a lot more confidence and know that we can do it," Kramer said. "We always heard that we could do it, but you don't truly believe until it happens. There is also pressure to take it above what we were able to do last season."

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