NCAA Tournament Action Hits Oxford as Soccer Hosts First Round Friday

NCAA Tournament Action Hits Oxford as Soccer Hosts First Round Friday

QUICK KICKS

• Ole Miss received a bid to the NCAA Championship for the 10th time in program history.

• The Rebels are one of five SEC teams to receive a bid at least five of the last seven seasons (Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M) and also one of five SEC teams to make four of the last five NCAA Tournaments (Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt).

• Friday’s match will be the third-ever NCAA Championship match hosted in Oxford and first since 2015.

• Last season, Ole Miss advanced to the second NCAA Sweet 16 in program history, advancing on penalties over Bowling Green and No. 6 national seed USC.

• The Rebels are coming off of a run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach last week, the deepest run since 2013.

• Ole Miss had four players named All-SEC, the most in program history. Ashley Orkus and Channing Foster landed on the First Team, while Molly Martin and Haleigh Stackpole earned Second Team honors.

• Orkus was also named the SEC Goalkeeper of the Year for the second consecutive season.

• Foster became the first player in league history to be named All-SEC five times. It is the senior’s third straight first team selection.

• Stackpole leads the SEC with 15 assists, third most in the nation.

• Ole Miss is ranked 17th in the most recent United Soccer Coaches Poll.

SCOUTING SAINT LOUIS

Katie Shields is in her ninth season as the head coach at Saint Louis, having led the Billikens to three straight NCAA Championship bids and three consecutive Atlantic-10 regular season and tournament titles from 2018-20. Claiming back-to-back A-10 Coach of the Year honors in 2019 and 2020, Shields has racked up more than 100 wins during her time at SLU.

The Billikens enter the NCAA Tournament with a 12-8-1 overall record, finishing third in the A-10 with a 7-3 mark in conference play. Saint Louis pulled a mild 4-2 upset over No. 2 seed Dayton in the A-10 Tournament semifinals before upending UMass 4-1 to earn a fourth consecutive automatic berth into the Big Dance.

Freshman Emily Gaebe leads the Billikens with seven goals on the season, adding in three assists for 17 total points. Three players are tied for second on the team in scoring with five goals apiece in junior Abbie Miller, sophomore Caroline Kelly and sophomore Lyndsey Heckel.

In goal, sophomore Emily Puricelli has started all 21 matches for SLU, posting a 0.77 goals against average and a .771 save percentage on 54 stops. Puricelli has posted 10 total clean sheets this season, eight solo.

SERIES HISTORY

Ole Miss has matched up with Saint Louis four times previously, though not since 2013. The Rebels and Billikens have split the previous meetings, with SLU splitting a home-and-home in 2004 and 2005 and Ole Miss repaying the favor with a 3-1 win in Oxford in 2012 and a 2-0 victory in St. Louis in 2013.

LAST MEETING

St. Louis. – 
Mandy McCalla and Addie Forbus both notched goals on the night as Ole Miss posted a 2-0 win at Saint Louis.

Ole Miss got on the board in the 19th minute when McCalla took the ball on a back tap from Bethany Bunker in the box and put it in the net. The Rebels, which had possessed the ball on the Saint Louis side of the field for most of the early part of the half, passed the ball around in the box for several seconds looking for an opening before Bunker found McCalla with the opening to make it 1-0.

Moments later, the Billikens returned with an attack and got off a solid shot that goalkeeper Kelly McCormick punched over the goal for the save. The ensuing corner kick came into the box and was delivered into the net, but the Saint Louis goal was waved off as a foul was called when a Billiken player pushed McCalla to the ground on the play in the box.

The two teams battled early in the second half, but the Rebels in an adjusted lineup turned the first stop into an attack and did not relent from there. Ole Miss possessed the ball and pressured the Billiken defense, outshooting Saint Louis 9-to-1 in the second half.

The Rebels converted that pressure into a goal when freshmen connected in the 72nd minute of the match. Heather Lacy picked the ball from the SLU midfielder and attacked the Billiken goal. She dribbled into the box and dumped the ball off to a waiting Addie Forbus who drilled her second goal of the season to give the Rebels the 2-0 lead.

Ole Miss kept the pressure on the rest of the way and turned away several attempts by the Billikens to get back in the match on the way to preserving the shutout win.

SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST

Entering the 2021 campaign with nine career goals in her first four seasons, midfielder Molly Martin is enjoying a prolific final season in Red and Navy. The Memphis native has exceeded those nine goals in 2021 alone with 10 this season, tied for fourth in the SEC. Potentially the most dangerous aerial presence in the nation, seven of Martin’s goals this season have come off headers.

WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER MANTEL

Ole Miss was well represented when the All-SEC postseason awards were announced on Sunday, with four Rebels earning All-SEC laurels in first team honorees Ashley Orkus and Channing Foster and second team selections Haleigh Stackpole and Molly Martin. Orkus was also named the SEC Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season. Meanwhile, Foster earned her fifth All-SEC designation, the first player in league history to do so, while Stackpole and Martin were named All-SEC for the first time in their careers. In all, the four All-SEC selections are the most in a single season for Ole Miss.

IT JUST MEANS MO’

When SEC play rolls around, Rebel striker Mo O’Connor steps her game up. Of O’Connor’s 12 career goals, eight have come against conference opposition, including five of six goals in 2021. O’Connor’s five goals in league play tied for the most in the conference.

TAKING A MULLIGAN

While three points on the road was nice, possibly the most rewarding aspect of Ole Miss’ match at Texas A&M was seeing the return of senior Lonnie Mulligan. Taking the pitch for the final five minutes of the half at Ellis Field, it was the first game action for Mulligan since tearing her ACL 362 days prior in the second match of the 2020 season at LSU.

FIXTURES IN THE LINEUP

For the past five years, Channing Foster and Molly Martin have been synonymous with Ole Miss soccer. This season, both entered the Rebel record book. No one has ever played more minutes in an Ole Miss kit than Foster, who has logged 8,838 minutes on the pitch. Meanwhile, Martin has played in 100 matches in her Rebel career, one more than Foster and more than any other player in program history.

HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE

When the Rebels have scored this season, it’s been a pretty safe bet that Haleigh Stackpole is involved, recording either a goal or an assist on 18 of Ole Miss’ last 28 goals. While the senior has five goals to her name in 2021, her primary role has been in setting up scoring opportunities. Stackpole ranks third in the nation with 15 assists this season, already the second most in a single season in program history. The Bowling Green, Kentucky, native is up to 30 assists in her career, ranking third all-time at Ole Miss.

AIR RAID OFFENSE

Taking full advantage of the height on the roster, Ole Miss has benefitted greatly from its aerial attack in 2021 with 10 headed goals, seven off the dome of senior Molly Martin. Additionally, 10 of the Rebels’ goals have come off of either a corner kick or a long throw-in.

RUN IT BACK

Coming off of arguably the best season in program history, Ole Miss is reloaded for the 2021 season, bringing back virtually the entire roster from a season ago. In fact, the Rebels return every single goal, assist and save from last season’s team, including a veteran core of 13 upperclassmen.  Going back even further, 50 of the 58 goals scored over the last two seasons were scored by a player returning to the Rebel roster. Bolstering the stacked lineup with 11 additional newcomers, the Rebs have plenty of weapons available to attack the new campaign.

AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE

After establishing herself with a solid first season in Red and Navy in 2019, Rebel goalkeeper Ashley Orkus grabbed the nation’s attention in 2020 with one of the most decorated seasons in program history. The senior shot stopper has been recognized for her accomplishments with a selection to the TopDrawerSoccer Best XI First Team, garnering headlines as the premier goalkeeper in the country. This comes after making a Southeastern Conference high 85 saves with seven clean sheets a season ago, leading to a unanimous nod as the SEC Goalkeeper of the Year and a United Soccer Coaches Third Team All-America laurel, while also earning the Best XI First Team spot from TopDrawerSoccer to close out the season.

SWAN SONG

Coming back for one final college campaign in 2021, Channing Foster will look to accomplish something rarely possible, become a five-time All-SEC honoree. Ever since bursting onto the scene with 12 goals as a freshman in 2017, Foster has been lighting the scoreboard up for the Rebs, landing on the all-conference team every season, including back-to-back first team nods. The SEC’s active leading scorer with 42 goals, the Murray, Kentucky, native is one of just two Rebels to earn all-league distinction four times in a career, joining all-time great Danielle Johnson. Despite her prolific career, Foster enters this season with the first preseason All-America recognition of her career, being selected to the Third Team by College Soccer News.

DYNAMIC DUO

For the second consecutive season, Channing Foster and Ashley Orkus have been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. The trophy is the nation’s highest individual honor recognizing the nation’s National Player of the Year as determined by the voting of Division I coaches who are members of United Soccer Coaches. Foster and Orkus are two of six SEC players recognized on the watch list, joining Arkansas’s Parker Goins and Anna Podojil and Texas A&M’s Barbara Olivieri and Karlina Sample. The Rebel duo are also both among the top-100 players in the nation as ranked by TopDrawerSoccer. Orkus is the highest ranked goalkeeper in the land at No. 16, the third-highest ranked player in the SEC and climbing all the way from No. 63 in TDS’s 2020 preseason rankings. Meanwhile, Foster comes in at No. 57, moving up from her place at No. 69 in the final rankings of the 2020 season.

HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Prior to October 31, 2020 no goalkeeper in the history of the Southeastern Conference had ever posted two assists in a single match. That changed during Ole Miss’ 4-3 win over Georgia, with Ashley Orkus crossing the midfield stripe twice to serve in free kicks, both times combining with Molly Martin to result directly in Rebel goals. Orkus wasn’t done there, the following week at Vanderbilt, Orkus again delivered a crucial assist from a free kick, teaming up with Martin once again to setup Channing Foster’s golden goal in overtime. During conference play, the three assists were good for a tie, along with Martin, for fourth most in the SEC and 18th in the nation.

DRAFT DAY DELIGHT

For the second time in three years, an Ole Miss Rebel heard her name called during the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft, with senior Channing Foster being selected with the 32nd overall pick by the Chicago Red Stars, while still retaining her eligibility to suit up for the Rebels this season. The Murray, Kentucky, native is a familiar face to the Red Stars organization, having played for the club’s Women’s Premier Soccer League affiliate, helping lead the Chicago Red Stars Reserves to a WPSL Central Region Championship. The Reds Stars have also been on the wrong end of the senior’s lethal left foot, with Foster scoring a stoppage time winner for the U-23 USWNT over Chicago in the 2019 Thorns Spring Invitational.

GAS IN THE TANK

Over her first three seasons as a Rebel, junior Haleigh Stackpole has proven to have deep reserves when it comes to energy. The Fort Bragg, North Carolina, native has been a fixture in the Ole Miss lineup ever since stepping foot on campus, starting all 63 matches of her collegiate career. Even more impressive, the box-to-box midfielder has hardly ever come off the field despite easily pacing the Rebels in distance ran every match, typically 9-10 miles. After ranking second on the team as a freshman at just over 84 minutes per match, Stackpole was subbed for just three total minutes in 2019, logging 1,899 minutes over 20 matches, and was one of just three players to be on the pitch for every second last season.

OLE MISS PICKED 6TH IN SEC PRESEASON POLL

The SEC announced the 2021 Preseason Coaches’ Poll prior to the season, with Ole Miss predicted to finish sixth in the league table as voted on by the conference’s 14 head coaches.

Ole Miss moves up a couple of places over its prediction in the past two coaches’ polls, having been selected eighth the last two seasons. The Rebels have finished higher in the league standings than the preseason prognostication in six of the last nine seasons.

ROOKIE REPORT

The Rebel coaching staff scoured the entirety of the south to bring in some of the nation’s top talent for the 2021 roster, plucking seven rookies from six different states. Adding to an Ole Miss roster that features standout performers from all around the country, Mott and his staff dipped into the talent pool in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee to continue to build the roster’s depth. Mott signed defender Kaitlin Maynard, a pair of midfielders in Ellie McIntyre and Lauren Montgomery and a trio of forwards, Amber Fortenberry, Maddie Bishop and Whitaker Buchanan. He also went out and added Canadian goalkeeper Alyssa Zalac to the signing class in late January and defender Lily Logan in April.

Rounding out the 2021 class is Shea O’Malley from Cary, North Carolina. O’Malley was ranked as the No. 25 recruit in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer and was called up to the United States U17 Women’s National Team. O’Malley graduated high school early and arrived on campus early to train with the Rebels during the spring.

HITTING THE PORTAL

In addition to the crop of nine freshmen added for the new season, Ole Miss also added depth to its veteran lineup with a pair of transfers in Sydney Ash of Virginia Tech and Stella Downing of Memphis.

Ash spent two seasons in Blacksburg before joining Ole Miss and training with the Rebels in the spring of 2021. In her time at Virginia Tech, the junior defender played in 13 matches with eight starts across the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The Leesburg, Virginia, native made seven starts for VT during the fall of 2020, helping the Hokies to a pair of clean sheets and recording her first career assist against Miami. Unfortunately, Ash will spend the 2021 season on the sideline after suffering a season-ending injury in preseason training.

The Rebels have also added a player they got to see up close in personal a season ago in Memphis’ Stella Downing. A lightning quick attacker out of Vancouver, Canada, Downing played in all 12 matches for the Tigers last season, tallying a pair of assists. One of those helpers came against Ole Miss, setting up Memphis’ lone goal in the 3-1 Rebel win. At the international level, Downing earned a bronze medal in the 2018 CONCACAF U17 Women’s Championship, earning her first cap for Team Canada against the USA.

FOLLOW THE REBS!

Fans can keep up with all the goings on around the Ole Miss soccer program by following the Rebels on the team’s various social media platforms. You can find the Rebs on Twitter at @OleMissSoccer, on Instagram at @OfficialOleMissSoccer or on Facebook by search “Ole Miss Soccer”. Fans can also now follow Ole Miss on TikTok at @OleMissWSoccer.

 


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