Ole Hotty Toddy co-editor Drew Moak recently caught up with third-year Ole Miss volleyball coach Steven McRoberts to discuss the upcoming volleyball season.
DM: Discuss the rise of the program since you became head coach. Have you accomplished any goals and what are you hoping to achieve going forward?
SM: We have achieved a lot of our goals. In our first two years, we have increased our team GPA (over a 3.2, it was under a 3.0), Our seniors have all achieved a degree from the University of Mississippi, we have won over 20 matches each season, we have been a competitive program within the SEC, and we put ourselves in a position to go to the NCAA tournament. As we are looking forward, we want to be playing in December in the NCAA tournament. That is really the biggest goal we have right now.
DM: What are the main differences in coaching at Ole Miss compared to your previous three head coaching stops (Tulsa, Central Arkansas, Lubbock Christian)?
SM: We have a lot more resources to help our student-athletes. We are consistently on television with the SEC Network and ESPN. More players are contacting us from a recruiting standpoint. And the level of player that we are getting on our campus is just, consistently, a better overall skilled athlete. The everyday competition in the SEC is just better and you have to prepare for every match like you’re trying to win a championship.
DM: This year’s team appears to be very young with only one senior. Does that make you nervous or excited for the upcoming season?
SM: I’m very excited, but all coaches are nervous – you know that right (haha). Our staff loves these players. I know we will have some down moments and growing pains with 12 combined sophomores and freshmen, but the upside with this group is really encouraging. We have a team that is on board with our overall philosophy and that will go a long way in helping us be successful.
DM: Along the same lines, your incoming recruiting class received Highest Honorable Mention by PrepVolleyball.com. How will that class help the future of Ole Miss volleyball?
SM: Number 1: They are competitors. Our practices automatically get better on day one.
Number 2: Their overall skill set will immediately add to our depth in every position and I see a lot of growth potential with this class. This is the first class, since I’ve been here, that we had a full year to evaluate and recruit.
DM: Describe playing home matches in The Pavilion this year. How much does that help the program?
SM: The Pavilion is an amazing facility! I’m not sure how much it helps or hurts. I love the intimate environment of the Gillom Center. It will be a fun year to play in the Pavilion and we will make the most of it, but we will be ready to get back to our home court in the Gillom.
DM: Obviously the program and entire university dealt with tragedy this off-season with the death of Ty Laporte. How did you see your team specifically overcome adversity and are there any plans to honor Ty this season?
SM: They really came together. There is no play book or instruction manual for how to handle a tragedy like that. There will still be a lot to overcome as we begin the season. I miss her and even though she wouldn’t have been on the team (because of graduation, I know she would have been around. I have no specifics on how we will honor Ty this season. We are still discussing what we’d like to do.
DM: The SEC Network is in its third full year broadcasting games online. How does that help with current players and in recruiting?
SM: It helps tremendously with recruiting. Lots of emails and texts from potential student-athletes. “Great match! Saw you on TV”, “Love watching your team on the SEC Network!” things like that immediately after a match lets me know that the SEC Network / ESPN broadcasts are making an impact. It will just continue to get better.
Ole Miss will open the season on August 26 vs. the University of California at Davis in the North Dakota Tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Rebels will open up the home slate on September 2 vs. the University of Texas at Arlington in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.