TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Hello from deep inside The Cave. That's the Coleman Auxilliary Volleyball Extension for the uninformed among us, and that would include myself prior to this particular visit. The Cave is attached to the back of Coleman Coliseum, home of Alabama hoops.
I've been here for football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball. Even a track meet to watch the Rebels run – when there was also a baseball series going on. A doubleheader of sorts.
But this is a first in more ways than one. Never been to Alabama for volleyball. Never been to an Ole Miss volleyball match on the road period.
It's kind of a makeup deal, to be truthful. Chuck, Chase, and I left Oxford a little later than we meant to heading to Georgia for football on that last Friday morning in September. Ole Miss and Georgia were playing volleyball in Athens that night. Our plans were to attend.
But leaving an hour and a half later than planned because of some unforeseen circumstances got us into Atlanta right about 5 o'clock. On a Friday afternoon. Not a pretty sight. Certainly a slow one.
We calculated at one point we went about 18 miles in an hour and 15 minutes. We reached the hotel where the Rebel football team was staying, checked in, and still had a 45-minute drive to the volleyball match in Athens. So we did the only thing logical at that point as match-time neared. We stayed put.
I rode over here today with UM associate athletics media relations director Bill Bunting, who handles volleyball and baseball for that office and does a fine job, if I say so myself.
This volleyball program indeed deserves more pub these days. What Coach Joe Getzin and staff have done the past few years has been nothing short of miraculous. Let's face it. Mississippi is no volleyball hotbed.
Four straight losing seasons in Getzin's first four years (2002-05) didn't bode well for his future or the program. There hadn't been a winning season at all since 1996.
Then came last year. The Rebels shocked the world and were 19-13 overall and 10-10 in SEC play. They made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history, and that dates back to 1976.
Now they're on the verge of solidifying their second straight NCAA berth. There are three matches left now – at State Sunday and at home against Auburn on Nov. 16 and Georgia on Nov. 18. There used to be an SEC Tournament in volleyball but not anymore. Those three matches will wrap up the resume' Ole Miss will present to the NCAA committee, and the Rebels hope their accomplishments will have been enough.
It's hard to put an exact finger on how this thing turned. It's difficult to say exactly what happened to move Getzin from what might have been a hot seat two years ago to one of security now. More talent, more team chemistry, more depth, patience. Probably some of all the above.
But it's happened, and that's a good thing – for his program and for Ole Miss.
There were a handful of Rebel supporters here. Some parents, a few students, and yes a Hotty Toddy or two were heard.
There were some Crimson Tide fans here but not as many as I thought there'd be. The Cave was about half full; there were maybe 250. Ole Miss has bigger crowds for conference matches.
Take that, Bama.
There was a Crimson Tide pep band and members get money for playing at these games. Paid more per player than they get for marching in the Million Dollar Band. I found that fairly interesting. A pep band at events other than football and hoops. And cheerleaders were here, too.
Yes, I have to admit, I did indeed have some Doyle Jackson flashbacks when I looked up into the crowd but tried to put that particular moment of the fall out of my mind. I was here for Ole Miss volleyball, and whatever else was distasteful about another trip to T-town I filed away for at least a few hours.
But I knew if it came down to one last call.....well.....we are playing in The Cave, you know.
This volleyball program of the Ole Miss Rebels deserves support. They are winning and likely getting ready to hang another NCAA tourney banner.
Good for them. Good for Ole Miss.
Oh, by the way. Final score tonight from The Cave - Ole Miss (23-6 overall, 12-5 SEC) won the match over the Crimson Tide (15-11, 12-5) three games to one.
Take that too, Bama.
A different kind of road trip, for sure
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