Soccer Kicks Off SEC Tournament with Alabama Rematch

Soccer Kicks Off SEC Tournament with Alabama Rematch

QUICK KICKS

• Ole Miss is participating in its seventh-straight SEC Tournament.

• The Rebels earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament with 19 points in the league table, tied for the highest seed for Ole Miss since garnering the No. 2 seed in 2005.

• Tuesday’s matchup will be the first ever between Ole Miss and Alabama at the SEC Tournament. The Crimson Tide are the 10th different opponent for the Rebels at the tournament.

• The SEC announced the 2021 All-SEC teams on Sunday, with Ashley Orkus, Channing Foster, Haleigh Stackpole and Molly Martin representing Ole Miss.

• 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 led the SEC during the regular season with 13 assists, fourth most in the nation.

• Stackpole was also named to the SEC Community Service team.

• Martin led the Rebels during the regular season with nine goals. Entering her fifth season in 2021, Martin had scored nine total goals in her career.

• Ole Miss is ranked 16th in the most recent United Soccer Coaches Poll.

• The Rebels are ranked 23rd in the most recent NCAA RPI report.

SCOUTING ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide are in their seventh season under head coach Wes Hart, who took over the program ahead of the 2015 season. Under Hart, Alabama has made one trip to the NCAA Tournament, earning the third bid in program-history in 2017 after finishing the regular season with four straight SEC victories.

Alabama earned the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament with a win over Auburn on Thursday. The Crimson Tide finished with a 5-4-1 league record, winning three of their last five matches. All 10 of Alabama’s wins this season have come in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama is led offensively by graduate student forward Ashlynn Serepca and sophomore midfielder Kate Henderson with five goals apiece. Serepca is also tied with two other players for the team lead with three assists, pacing Bama with 13 total points. Defensively, junior Reyna Reyes earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team.

Graduate student McKinley Crone has seen the bulk of the load between the posts, starting 17 matches and making 19 appearances. Crone has posted a 1.42 GAA with a .700 save percentage, recording five clean sheets.

SERIES HISTORY

The Rebels lead the all-time series with Alabama 18-8-1, winning nine of the last 11 meetings with just one loss in that stretch. Ole Miss has never faced off against the Crimson Tide at the SEC Tournament.

LAST MEETING

OXFORD, Miss. – 
Three goals on the night led Ole Miss to three points in the league table as the Rebels opened up SEC play with a 3-1 victory over Alabama.

The Rebels got off to a quick start, with Mo O’Connor getting Ole Miss on the board in the 11th minute off a counter attack. After Channing Foster’s attempt at goal was blocked, Ramsey Davis latched onto the rebound and slid a backheel pass to O’Connor, who fired past Crimson Tide keeper McKinley Crone off a deflection.

Alabama answered back in the 24th minute, tying the score on a Kate Henderson header off of a Kat Rogers cross from the left wing.

Just under 12 minutes later, Foster was brought down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, awarding Ole Miss with a penalty kick opportunity. Haleigh Stackpole took the ball and sent Crone the wrong way, converting to regain the lead for the Rebels.

Just before the half time whistle came, Molly Martin made it three for the Rebels. After Foster slipped in Stackpole down the right wing, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, native lifted in a lofted cross aimed for Martin’s head. The ball found its mark, with Martin rising highest and looping in a headed goal in the 45th minute.

The Crimson Tide created a few chances to draw closer in the second 45 minutes but each time Ashley Orkus and the Rebel back line was up to the task, closing out the win to bring the Rebels to the top of the SEC table.

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 matched those nine goals in 2021 alone, tied for fourth in the SEC. Potentially the most dangerous aerial presence in the nation, six 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 8,658 minutes on the pitch. Meanwhile, Martin has played in 98 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 16 of Ole Miss’ last 25 goals. While the senior has five goals to her name in 2021, her primary role has been in setting up scoring opportunities. Stackpole ranks fourth in the nation with 13 assists this season, already the fourth most in a single season in program history. The Bowling Green, Kentucky, native is up to 28 assists in her career, ranking third all-time at Ole Miss. Stackpole has not registered an assist in Ole Miss’ last four games, her longest drought of the season.

AIR RAID OFFENSE

Taking full advantage of the height on the roster, Ole Miss has benefitted greatly from its aerial attack in 2021 with nine headed goals, six off the dome of senior Molly Martin. Additionally, eight 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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