The 24th-ranked Ole Miss soccer team fought off Murray State 1-0 Friday night at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Rebels will travel to Clemson to take on the No. 7 Tigers in the round of 32.
“Survive and move on. That’s the old adage, and that’s what we did tonight,” Ole Miss head coach Matthew Mott said. “We fought like crazy. They were a good team. They won 16 games for a reason. We’re happy that we’re moving on. It wasn’t our best game, but this time of year every win is a good win.”
As has been the case many times this season, the Rebels scored early. Junior midfielder Gretchen Harknett scored just 70 seconds into the match to put the Rebels in the driver’s seat. It marked the seventh time this season Ole Miss has scored in the first five minutes of a match.
Senior midfielder Olivia Harrison made a run down the left side of the field and crossed it toward junior forward Addie Forbus, drawing the Murray State goalkeeper off her line. Forbus flicked it on to a wide-open Harknett, who tapped it in.
The Rebel defense made the goal standing up, shutting out the Racers and holding them to just four shots.
“Our defense was huge. There’s a reason Jess Hiskey is an all-conference player. She, Liza Harbin and Maddie Friedmann were great,” Mott said. “They were really tough, and Marnie Merritt was organized behind them. Melissa Capocaccia and Courtney Carroll did a good job in our holding midfield spot.”
Despite the win, the Ole Miss offense again struggled to find a way to get the ball into the back of the net. The Rebels took 21 shots but only one found its way across the goal line.
“I got into our defenders a little bit at halftime. I thought we made it a little too easy for them,” Jeremy Groves, Murray State’s head coach, said. “In the second half, we defended services better and we limited them to shots from outside the box, which is what we wanted to do.”
“I thought we moved the ball really well and put ourselves into some good spots, we just lacked the end product,” Mott said. “I’m happy we’re creating chances. That’s the biggest thing for me. As we go forward, we’ve got to be a little cleaner.”
The Rebels will attempt to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history against Clemson, who has been ranked in the top 10 all season. The Tigers finished tied for third in the ACC, an extremely competitive conference that had eight teams make the NCAA tournament.
Forbus said she is confident her team has what it takes to make history.
“I’m super pumped to see how far the team can take it,” she said. “I don’t think we have a ceiling, and it’s exciting to get back to the second round.”