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It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:

1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.

"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously. 

"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."

2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display. 

And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.

3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show. 

She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.

4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace. 

The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.  

He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.

"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."

5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?

The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.

6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play). 

7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.

From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.

"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."

8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.

"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."

9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.

10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.

11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.

12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.

13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here

And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove. 

14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet. 

15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.

"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."

16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.

17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.

"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group. 

"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."

18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.

19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.

Upset Bid Falls Short Against No. 10 A&M

Seeking its first win over a top-10 team since 2009, Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead but fell short to No. 10 Texas A&M, 2-1, Sunday afternoon.

"I'm really happy with the team's performance," head coach Matt Mott said. "I'm certainly disappointed we didn't get a result today but certainly very happy with how hard the team played and battled."

Junior defender Maddie Friedmann gave the Rebels a 1-0 lead with a header goal in the 62nd minute off a corner kick. Freshman Courtney Carroll sent the corner into the box and and junior midfielder Jessica Hiskey got her head to it before Friedmann found the back of the net.

Ole Miss held a 1-0 advantage before Texas A&M found the equalizing goal in the 72nd minute and then the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute. 

Those were the only two blemishes on an otherwise excellence performance from senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick, who made eight saves against an Aggie attack that finished with 23 shots and 10 shots on goal.

"The second one, I was disappointed with myself, because it was a really close angle," McCormick said. "I don't think she should have scored that one. I kind of hold myself accountable for that."

"She's an excellent goalkeeper and has been doing really well all year," Mott said. "I hate it for her because she played really well. All of the guys in the back played great. They all battled like crazy."

Ole Miss had multiple chances to tie the match in the closing seconds after sophomore forward Sara Coleman drew a foul just outside the box. The Rebels fired two shots off the post but couldn't find the back of the net, as Texas A&M escaped with the win.

"It was a great shot by Addie (Forbus) on the free kick," Mott said. "It looked like it was going in. It hit the post and dropped straight down. We had people there and just couldn't get it in the back of the goal. That was definitely a crazy sequence and tough to watch when it doesn't go in.

"It was kind of like a pinball game," Friedmann said. "You're head is whipping around trying to figure out where the ball is going. I could have sworn that it was going in. I felt it hit off me. They had four or five girls on the line and managed to get it out. It was unfortunate, but sooner or later, we're going to catch the right bounce."

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."

Coming off the program's fifth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and a school-record 15 wins this past season, the Ole Miss soccer team returned to the pitch for the first practice of the preseason on Wednesday.

The Rebels open the 2014 season with the first-ever live event broadcast on the SEC Network when they host Georgia on Friday, Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. CT.

"It's good to be back," head coach Matt Mott said. "It's nice to be out here. Our team is really fit. They did a great job on the fitness test. It's the fittest team I have been a part of in my 22 years. They are extremely fit. Our strength coach, Randy Dorvin, has done a great job with them all summer. It's a typical first day. We probably could have been sharper, but the energy and intensity was high.

"Our team did really well," senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick said. "We had high intensity. Our fitness was really good. We were performing like it's the middle of the season and we're ready to play a good opponent."

Ole Miss made history this past season, not only setting a school record for wins, but also hosting an NCAA Tournament game for the first time and winning its second NCAA Tournament game in five trips to the annual event, but the team wants more entering the 2014 season.

"It goes to the character of these guys," Mott said. "They're tight already as a team. They pushed each other all summer and they wanted to come into fall camp fit. All spring and into fall camp, we have said that we're not going to be a one-hit wonder and disappear again. Our goal is to get back into the top 25 and into the top half of the SEC."

Despite losing two of the program's top four all-time goal-scorers, Rafaelle Souza (1st, 44 goals) and Mandy McCalla (4th, 37 goals), Mott called this year's team his deepest yet, with 17 returning players from last year's squad and five newcomers.

"I feel confident about all 22 (players)," Mott said. "They have come here in really good shape and ready to go. I like all 22 of them. They will all compete, and it will make them better every single day."

"Each year, the coaches have recruited better and better," McCormick said. "My freshman year, we weren't the most talented team, but this year, we have depth in our team and we have players who can come off the bench and play right off the bat."

It starts with McCormick, the lone senior on this year's team who has started all three years for the Rebels and is already the all-time wins leader in goal (34). She posted a 16-6-2 record with 10 shutout wins as a junior.

"She has the right mentality," said Mott of McCormick. "She's a winner. She's absolutely a winner. She has the school record already for wins. Technically, she's really, really clean, which is really important for a goalkeeper. She has done a great job with coach Rob Thompson every single year and she has made big strides. She understands what it takes. She's been in those pressure situations."

Among the five talented newcomers is freshman goalkeeper Marnie Merritt, a high school All-America selection from Huntersville, North Carolina, where she also helped Hough High School to a No. 1 national ranking by ESPN.

"Marnie has come in and she's going to be really good for us," Mott said. "She has a great pedigree. She's learning it right now certainly. Madi Killeen, too. We have three really good goalkeepers, which is an anomaly in women's soccer. I'm comfortable with all three of them. It's a battle right now. Certainly Kelly is the leader because she's been our starter, but she has a battle on her hands with the other two coming in behind her."

On the field, Ole Miss returns all six players (Melissa Capocaccia, Maddie Friedmann, Gretchen Harknett, Jessica Hiskey, Georgia Russell and Samantha Sanders) who drew starts along the back line, with Harknett and Hiskey moving to the midfield. 

The Rebels also return forwards Olivia Harrison, Addie Forbus and Bethany Bunker, who combined for 17 of the team's goals last season.

"If you look at Bethany Bunker, Addie Forbus and Olivia Harrison, all those guys had six or seven goals, which on most teams is a good number of goals," Mott said. "We just scored so many goals last year with Rafa and Mandy, it got skewed. Those three had great seasons with tons of assists, so I feel good about our ability to score. We'll have a scoring punch."

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Ole Miss Soccer held a "Dad and Daughter Day" this past Sunday, and it was another special day for superfan Sam Provenza and his daughter Mille Smith. 


Provenza, a World War II veteran who will turn 91 in January, and his daughter have formed a special bond with junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick from both attending mass at the St. John's Catholic Church.


"I met them through church," McCormick said. "I didn't have anyone to go with at 8:30 in the morning, and so they introduced themselves and adopted me as if I was their child. He has really supported me in my sports and academics. He is an amazing man and he has an amazing story in what he has been through in his life, so I am really happy to be a part of their family."


"I'm living with my daughter, and Kelly is good friends with her from church, so I got interested in her, and I started coming to games this year," Provenza said. "I talk to her about the game and everything. She's a fine young lady and has devoted most of her time to charity and trying to get into veterinary school."

 

Provenza has attended every Ole Miss home soccer match this season as he recovers from cancer surgery. It was during that time after surgery that his bond with McCormick grew stronger.


"He just had cancer surgery on Feb. 1 for the left parotid gland," Smith said. "We know Kelly from church, and she would always sit with us, and she came on some really dark days for my dad to cheer him on in his cancer recovery, and he is here to cheer her on for soccer and the rest of the girls."


Provenza and Smith arrived early before kickoff, and then stayed after the match, a 1-1 draw with No. 7 South Carolina. Following her post-match responsibilities, McCormick returned to the bleachers at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium, and visited with them, as she does after every home match.


"That means a lot to me," Provenza said. "She feels like she's one of my daughters. I have three daughters, so she's my fourth daughter."


"It touches me dearly that he would take his time to come watch a game," McCormick said. "He could be doing other things. He has a special place in my heart, so I really enjoy that he's here with me."



After 1-0 win over Vanderbilt the previous week, Ole Miss re-entered the polls at No. 24 and then finished the weekend with four points -- a 1-0 win on the road at No. 25 LSU and a 1-1 tie at home against No. 7 South Carolina.


The Rebels improved to 12-3-2 overall and 5-2-1 in Southeastern Conference play and moved into a three-way tie for fourth place with LSU and South Carolina.


"It's a fantastic weekend for us, and four huge points for the SEC (Tournamnet), and we have to keep rolling," head coach Matt Mott said. "This team believes. That's four games in a row we're unbeaten. We got a big game next Friday. I'm happy with them and the way we're playing and competing and looking forward to the last three."


Against South Carolina on Sunday, Ole Miss fell behind 1-0 after a goal in the sixth minute, but junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick kept it a one-goal game, as she made four save in the first half to get to halftime.


"Without her, we lose that game, 2-0, 3-0, in the first half," Mott said. "They just pounded us. We were able to get into halftime and adjust and come back out with better energy and effort. Kelly was huge."


"I was in the right position in the right time," McCormick said of her six saves in the match. "Coach Rob (Thompson) has really been helping me in practice and we have been simulating some scenarios that would happen in the game, and some of them happened, so I was able to be in the right spot at the right time and make those saves.



A pair of great individual efforts netted the equalizer in the 76th minutes for the Rebels, as sophomore midfielder Jennifer Miller connected with sophomore midfielder Olivia Harrison, who slid the ball past the goalkeeper for her fifth goal of the season.


Already without sophomore defender Samantha Sanders, who suffered a knee injury earlier in the season, Ole Miss also suffered injuries to redshirt freshman Georgia Russell and freshman Melissa Capocaccia, who also play on the back line for the Rebels. 


"A couple of ankle injuries," Mott said. "Georgia's is more severe than Melissa's, so we hope they're going to be OK. Georgia is probably going to be out for a while, but I think Melissa will be back, hopefully quickly."


Senior Maddie Cunningham stepped up and logged 46 minutes off the bench in their place and then nearly gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead late in the second half, but her shot from way, way out hit off the top of the goal. 


"They're playing so hard and battling," said Mott of the back line. "I'm proud of every one of them. And Kelly is doing fantastic for us. That's keeping us in games that we would have lost in the past. It's keeping us winning and tying and keeping us going toward our goals."


"I was really disappointed we kept injured in the back, but Maddie Cunningham stepped it up and made some really good tackles and plays, so we're really happy with her performance," McCormick said.


The Rebels carry their fourth-match unbeaten streak into another split home-away weekend, on the road at SEC-leading Texas A&M on Friday, then back at home against Alabama on Sunday. 


"I think we're right there," said Mott of NCAA Tournament consideration, "Our RPI is good. We have good games left. If we can take care of business, I think we have a good chance of getting an (NCAA Tournament) bid."



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."

Rebels Bounce Back In 7-0 Win Over Auburn


Coming off a 4-1 loss to No. 7 Florida on Friday night, No. 24 Ole Miss scored two goals in the first five minutes and went on to win 7-0 over Auburn on Sunday afternoon. Sophomore Bethany Bunker netted a pair of goals to give her a hat trick for the weekend, and five goals for the season, including the first goal of Sunday's game.


Junior Kelly McCormick made three saves, as Ole Miss recorded its sixth shutout of the season. Offensively, along with Bunker, senior Mandy McCalla added two goals, giving her nine for the season, while sophomore Olivia Harrison, senior Emily Reid and freshman Addie Forbus rounded out the scoring for the Rebels.


"They just moved the ball so great, and really, Bethany and Rafa were great early, getting in and getting around the corner, and putting the ball in dangerous spots," head coach Matt Mott said. "It was a complete team win. We were very good and organized in the back.


"We had tons of energy. This team, they have great character, and they want to get out and play well at home. They weren't happy after Friday, so they came out with something to prove. They knocked in those couple early goals and settled themselves down. I'm certainly happy with their performance."


At 9-2-1 through 12 games, it's the third-best start in program history, its best since 2003, when Ole Miss advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time in program history. Next weekend, the Rebels hit the road for two road games against two team currently just outside the top 25 in Tennessee and Georgia.


"We expect tough games," Mott said of next weekend's games. "Every SEC road game is really tough. We will have to come ready to go on Friday against Tennessee."



Rebels Pitch Shutout In Rivalry Match


The Ole Miss soccer team completed the weekend sweep, with a 2-1 win over Kennesaw State on Friday, then a 3-0 win over Memphis on Sunday. The Rebels (6-1-1) enter Southeastern Conference play next Friday at No. 25 Arkansas.

"We came together as team," senior Mandy McCalla said of Sunday's win against Memphis. "The chemistry is there, and everyone is connecting. We have confidence from back-to-back wins this weekend, and we're going to take what we have learned in the nonconference into conference play."

"It was a great game for us," head coach Matt Mott said. "Two quality opponents. Memphis is a very good team. I'm really happy with our team to come out and score three goals and finish the shutout. To get a result like that is huge for us."

McCalla, who netted the go-ahead goal against Kennesaw State, did so again Sunday against Memphis, with her team-leading seventh goal of the season. Then, early in the second half, fellow senior Rafaelle Souza added a pair of goals in a one-minute span, her sixth and team-leading seventh goals of the season, as the Rebels extended their lead to 3-0.

"They get a chance (to score), and they have a really good idea of how to score and where to put the ball, and they both scored good goals tonight," Mott said of McCalla and Souza.



On the defensive end, junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick helped Ole Miss pitch its fourth shutout of the season, as McCormick made four saves, including one on a penalty kick when the game remained scoreless in the first half. The back line also made big plays on defense, including sophomore Maddie Friedmann, who cleared a ball of the line when the Rebels led 1-0 in the first half.

"Memphis has great, international-level forwards," Mott said. Our ability to shut them down and not let them create any goal-scoring chances was great for us. They attacked us some, but we defended them well for most of the game."

Through the first eight nonconference games, Ole Miss has a pair of road wins at UAB and St. Louis and played No. 23 Southern Cal to a 1-1 tie in the Minnesota Gold Classic. Offensively, the Rebels are averaging nearly three goals per game, with 23 goals through eight games, led by seven each from McCalla and Souza.

"We're two minutes away from being undefeated," Mott said of the first eight games. "We have played really well. Our intensity and effort have been good all year long. I'm certainly happy with it. Now, we have to get ready for conference play."






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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