As September draws to a close, Ole Miss soccer is now three games into conference play and looking as dangerous as ever.
An eye-catching 9-1-1 on the season, the Rebels, led by head coach Matt Mott, have won two of their first three SEC matchups of the season. Ole Miss’ lone defeat came at the hands of No. 7 Florida earlier this year.
Now 2-1 in SEC play, Ole Miss turns its attention to the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks, ranked No. 3 in the nation. The head to head, which will take place 7 p.m. Friday, will pit two highly respected NCAA programs against each other with postseason implications on the line.
The Gamecocks, who match the Rebels’ nine wins, also boast an undefeated conference record.
Despite South Carolina’s slight edge on paper, recent history between the two teams could point to plenty of unpredictability. In the past five years, the Rebels and Gamecocks split two wins each and saw their fifth encounter end in a draw. Furthermore, neither team has won two games in a row throughout the past six years.
With equally impressive records and no indication of predictability, Friday’s game is sure to entertain. Neither team can afford to drop valuable SEC points, and interconference rivalry games are rarely quiet.
With that said, there are certain factors that could swing the game in Ole Miss’ favor.
The Rebels rank first in the SEC in both shots (20.18) and goals (3.91) per game. South Carolina, on the other hand, sits at 11th in both categories. What implications will this have Friday? Well, it could highlight South Carolina’s especially efficient offense. The Gamecocks don’t rely on volume to score; rather, they poach clear-cut goals from well-built chances.
But leading the SEC in shots and goals is no small feat. The Rebels are hungry and are clearly not afraid to pull the trigger. Expect Mott’s team to strike early and often, hoping to keep its foot on the throttle and the Gamecocks trapped in their own half.
Even more convincing, the Rebels lead the SEC in total points, assists per game, shutouts, goals against average and fewest goals allowed. In fact, Ole Miss outranks South Carolina in every category but three: offsides, fouls and saves.
The Rebels’ offensive success is predicated on incredible individual performances. CeCe Kizer, Channing Foster and Marnie Merritt all lead the SEC in a major category. Kizer and Foster, tied at 10 goals apiece on the season, have scored two more than any other player in the conference.
Despite Ole Miss’ statistical dominance, South Carolina still leads the SEC with an undefeated record and attention-grabbing seven-game win streak.
Despite the inherent unpredictability surrounding Friday’s match, the Rebels have proven their star power can translate into team-wide dominance. South Carolina represents a vital matchup for Mott and his squad — a win would help build momentum before a tough stretch of SEC matches, while a loss could be devastating.