Ole Miss opens SEC play on the road Thursday against No. 7 Florida

Posted on Sep 14 2017 - 8:00am by Maggie Crouch

Grace Waugh dribbles downfield during the game against Lamar University earlier this season. Ole Miss wins 3-0. Photo by Billy Schuerman

The No. 24 Ole Miss women’s soccer team will play in its first conference game against No. 7 Florida at 6 p.m. Thursday night in Gainesville.

This is the team’s first SEC matchup of the season, and it will certainly put the unbeaten Rebels to the test. So far, coach Matt Mott has been thoroughly impressed with the team’s performance and the success it has found this early in the season.

“I don’t know if I saw this team gelling this soon,” Mott said at a press conference Monday night. “They really have gelled together this year, and Foster Channing is leading the conference with nine goals, and CeCe Kizer is right behind her with eight goals.”

Channing and Kizer, alongside goalkeeper Marnie Merritt, have led the 7-0-1 Rebels to a season full of shutouts and seemingly endless goals. With nine of their 10 games ending in shutouts and 38 goals already scored this season, Mott and the Rebels are optimistic heading into the bulk of their conference schedule.

“This is the deepest team I have ever had and one of the best backlines we have ever had,” Mott said. “This team has ability and feels good about scoring. They want to score and just go at it.”

The Rebels’ opponent on Thursday night has also had a solid start to its season and a confidence of its own. The Florida Gators, who have won five of their six games, racked up 15 goals and three shutouts, with their biggest win coming 3-2 over No. 2 Stanford at home.

Last year, when Ole Miss and Florida faced each other in Oxford, the Rebels lost 0-3 to the Gators. This added a loss to the all-time record of 2-20-1 between the two in-conference rivals.

Coming off of two huge victories this past weekend in the Memphis tournament, where they shut out Tulsa 4-0 and Memphis 1-0, the Rebels are looking to continue their five-game win streak with a statement win against the Gators in Gainesville.

“We had another very good weekend winning the Memphis Invitational Tournament,” Mott said at a press conference Monday night. “Really happy with the group, and we’re going to keep moving along.”

Mott said he is particularly impressed with the number of goals the Rebels have scored, but he knows that may change as they head into SEC play.

“I don’t think we are going to score eight goals against anyone, but we are going to continue to attack, for sure,” Mott said. “I think we can score – not to the level that we have been scoring, but there are goals out there we can get.”

While the offense is the obvious highlight of the 2017 season, the Rebel backline and defense haven’t gone unnoticed, either, especially in the game against Memphis last Sunday.

“We have been scoring a ton, but the defense has really not had a lot to do, and they were tested by a very good Memphis team that has scored a ton of goals this year,” Mott said. “Keeping them off the board was huge, and Marnie Merritt was excellent in goal.”

The Rebels will take on the Gators at 6 p.m. on SECN+. Ole Miss was supposed to continue on to DeLand, Florida, to face Stetson University on Sunday, but that match has been canceled due to the effects of Hurricane Irma. The Rebels’ next game will be next Thursday at home against Georgia.