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Rebels Rebound with Hard-Fought Draw

Playing in their fourth overtime game of the season, the Ole Miss soccer team played Arkansas to a 1-1 double-overtime draw on Thursday night. 

The teams combined for 30 shots, including 13 on goal, but the game was characterized more by the physical play with a combined 22 fouls and two yellow cards for Arkansas in the second half. 

"When you get into the SEC games, the intensity and physical are up," head coach Matt Mott said. "Both teams were really fighting for the three points. When you have days like that, you have to be physically ready, and our guys did a good job of getting ready and up for the game."

"It was a battle," junior Jessica Hiskey said. "We knew coming out they were going to be very physical and very good in the air, so we knew he had to challenge for everything and keep digging out the second balls."

Arkansas went ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 15th minute and held the one-goal advantage for much of the game before sophomore Gretchen Harknett found the equalizer in the 69th minute on a bending ball from the top of the box to beat the keeper.

It was a big goal for the Rebels, not only battling back to draw even in the match, but also coming off a 4-0 loss at Central Florida this past Sunday.

"We needed it for our confidence," said Mott of the goal. "We needed it for our mentality. Gretchen Harknett is a good player for us, and it's big for her to get that goal and help us settle things down. We created plenty of chances. We should have gotten one in the first half and maybe it would have been a different second half."

With the draw, Ole Miss moves to 6-2-3 overall, 1-0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, ahead of a Sunday showdown with No. 10 Texas A&M, the second-highest ranked team in the league behind No. 7 Florida. The Aggies (7-1-1) are led by the top scoring scoring duo in the SEC in seniors Shea Groom and Kelley Monogue who have combined for 15 goals this season.

"They're really good," Mott said. "They're worthy of their rankings, but it's an SEC game, and we're in every SEC game that we play. It will be a big challenge for us on Sunday, but one that the girls are certainly looking forward to. A&M is very good and they are explosive offensively. Hopefully we can create some things against them."

McCormick, Defense Shine in Win

After playing 110 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Georgia on Friday night, Ole Miss responded with a gutsy 1-0 win over Iowa State on Sunday afternoon. The defense, led by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick was the story of the game. 

Ole Miss limited Iowa State to just five shots, while McCormick posted her 18th career shutout and scored her first career goal on a penalty kick in the 24th minute.

"I didn't know I was going to be the first one called, but coach knows I have been practicing a lot on my PK's," McCormick said. "I was kind of praying to myself that he wasn't going to call my name but he did, so I went out there and gave it my best shot."

In club soccer, she played half in the goal and half in the field as an outside midfielder or a forward. She joked that she didn't score a lot but instead helped set up her teammates, so it was a nice moment for the school's all-time wins leader as a goalkeeper.

"We have been doing them in practice, and she looks great at it," head coach Matt Mott said. "She's a senior and been taking them for four years. We had her in our (penalty kick) group at the end of the year last year. She looks great in practice and stepped up. She's a winner."

The back line of juniors Maddie Friedmann, Jessica Hiskey, sophomore Melissa Capocaccia and freshman Courtney Carroll kept things relatively clean in front of McCormick, whose biggest test was a cross into the box late in the second half, which she punched away.

"I'm so proud of the back line," McCormick said. "They have done a tremendous job. They have made my job a lot easier. I honestly didn't have to do much because they were working very hard preventing through balls and crosses from happening."

Mott has already moved sophomore Gretchen Harknett, who started all 24 matches at right back last season, into a more attacking role in the midfield, and it's his hope to also move Hiskey into a similar role in the midfield as the season progresses.

"They were really composed," said Mott of the back line. "The four of them are really starting to gel together. We're getting Sam Sanders some good minutes now too and that will only help us going forward. We get her back in there and get Jessica (Hiskey) moved back into the midfield. I'm very happy with those guys. They played 200 minutes and didn't give up a goal in running play. That's a good weekend."


Senior forward Mandy McCalla netted the game-winner, as Ole Miss improved to 11-3-1 and 4-2 in SEC play with a 1-0 win over Vanderbilt on Friday night. The defense, led by junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick, posted its seventh shutout of the season.


"It's a really good win for us," head coach Matt Mott said. "Defensively, we played really well against three great forwards on Vanderbilt. And then we created a lot on the other side. We couldn't get them to go in, but we created a lot, which was important.


"I'm proud of the way we battled and fought and kept them off the board, and then Mandy got a good goal for us. I'm happy with what we created. Some nights they go in, some nights they don't. Tonight, we hit too many posts and too many at the keeper."


Ole Miss outshot Vanderbilt 30-5 but did not find the back of net until the 58th minute when McCalla scored her 11th goal of the season off a deflection from a shot by sophomore midfielder Jennifer Miller.


"All of us tonight hit every single part of the goal except the back of the net," McCalla said. "We had a lot of opportunities to be creative and attack them, and then to score one, it was relieving."


"It was huge to settle the game down a little bit for us," Mott said. "We were pressing and pressing and pressing. A lot of times you get out of that first half and you haven't scored a goal and you had some good chances, you start to get tighter, so Mandy did a good job of finishing that off for us and getting us a lead and then we could settle down and continue to play."


Sophomore Jessica Hiskey, who started all 22 games on the backline for the Rebels last year, got the start in place of sophomore Samantha Sanders, who suffered a knee injury in last Sunday's 3-1 win over Georgia. She and her teammates helped shutout Vanderbilt for just the second time this season.


"I was a little nervous coming in, just this week being back in the starting lineup, but I was really prepared and look forward to working hard in the coming weeks," Hiskey said. "My teammates gave me confidence that I could come in and do well and kept me upbeat during the game."


"She was a left back for us last year, and then we moved her into the center tonight," Mott said. "She fought like crazy. She's one of the toughest kids on our team. Her effort in there tonight was just awesome for her first start after the injury and then play 90 minutes, I'm just really happy with her."


After a week off, the Rebels return to the pitch for a split home-and-away weekend against two of the top teams in the SEC. They travel to Baton Rouge to take on conference leader LSU on Friday, then return home for a match against No. 13 South Carolina on Sunday.


"I like where we are," Mott said. "We're doing a good job defensively and in the attack. I like the way we're playing and excited about these last five matches."

McCalla Named Team Captain


Senior forward Mandy McCalla, who earned All-SEC honors from the coaches and tied for the conference lead with 13 goals and 33 points last season, will wear the captain's armband for the Rebels this season.


"She's a leader for us," head coach Matt Mott said of McCalla. "She understands completely what we're trying to do, and how we're trying to do it. I trust her and believe in what she does. She brings the best out of everybody. She demands it out of herself first, then her teammates next. That's what you want in a leaders, and the girls absolutely respect her."


McCalla tied for the conference lead in goals and points with her teammate, senior Rafaelle Souza, and they are two of six seniors on the team.


"We have a good senior class that is going to carry us," he said. "We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but we have a strong senior class. You win with seniors, and we have six seniors."


Defense First


As the Rebels prepared for their season opener, at home, against Louisiana-Lafayette at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 23, Mott said the first emphasis will be on the back line.


"The good thing is we're starting out further along than we ever have, so we're starting a higher level," he said. "We've got to get our defensive game plan and figure out who we're going to play in the back because we have some options. I think we always want to put in the defense first. 


"We're going to score goals with Mandy and Rafa, and Bethany Bunker and Olivia Harrison all returning, and the new guys, we're putting in Addie Forbus and Mackenze Parma. We're going to score goals. We got to get sold defensively first."


A trio of sophomores -- Maddie Friedmann, Jessica Hiskey and Samantha Sanders -- started all 22 games as freshmen, and they all return to anchor the back line for the Rebels, along with junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick who started all 22 games in goal and posted eight shutout victories last season.


"That, to me is exciting going into this season that we have all of those guys back," he said. "The whole back line is back, and you have Kelly in goal, who will be a junior now. Those guys who are sophomores have a full year under their belt and they look great."


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