The Ole Miss Rebels put on an offensive showcase in their 3-0 victory against Murray State on Sunday. Haleigh Stackpole, Channing Foster and CeCe Kizer all scored in the victory, and the defense got its third clean sheet in four games.
The Rebels dominated possession early in the game, connecting many passes deep in the midfield and looking for that final pass to let the forwards loose. This strategy panned out, leading to Stackpole’s opening goal in the 26th minute.
The Ole Miss defense was stout on Sunday, giving Murray State little operating room in the game. The Racers had two scoring opportunities in the first half — one off of a counter-attack that led to a one-on-one with Rebel goalkeeper Marnie Merritt and another in the form of a free kick, following a Rebel foul during another Racer counter-attack.
Because the counter-attack was the only offense that Murray State could muster, Rebels head coach Matt Mott made some changes after halftime.
“We wanted to deny service from the backs a little bit better,” Mott said.
Ole Miss accomplished this by pushing its outside backs and forwards higher up the pitch to create pressure on Murray State’s backline.
Foster, a sophomore, got her first goal of the season shortly after halftime, doubling the lead for Ole Miss with a brilliant, low-driven shot from outside the box in the 52nd minute. There was little the Racers’ goalkeeper could do to stop such a well-struck ball.
“As I took my last touch, I was looking up to see where the keeper was,” Foster said. “I saw she (the keeper) was cheated a little more towards the near (post), so I was going far post.”
Kizer was causing havoc for the Murray State defense throughout the game, and she was finally rewarded with a goal with 22 minutes left in the match. She went right at the defense with some fancy footwork before slotting the ball past the keeper into the side netting.
Kizer leads the team in scoring with five goals at this point in the season. She finished last season with 15 goals, which was the most on the team.
Ole Miss finished with 30 shots in the game, while putting five of them on frame.
The Ole Miss defense allowed a total of 11 shots in the game, seven of which were on-target. The last of these led to a save by Merritt with 13 minutes left in the game.
“We (the defense) have an understanding of each other now. We played the spring together … our back four has been the same throughout the spring, now leading into the fall,” Merritt said. “We (have) a lot of really smart girls back there, so we’re really dialed in.”
Kizer was subbed out late in the game after sustaining an injury following a foul by a Murray State midfielder. Mott said the leading Rebel scorer is going to be fine.
The Rebels are off to a hot start, having scored 14 goals in their first four games. Mott’s defense has been equally impressive, having only conceded two goals, thus far. The Rebels are 3-1 at this point, with victories against Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette and Murray State and their only loss versus Minnesota. The Rebels’ next game will be on Aug. 30, at Troy.