The Ole Miss soccer team is back in action in the new semester, looking to return to the NCAA Tournament after a second-round exit last season.
The Rebels were predicted to finish eighth in the SEC this season but are hoping to have a repeat of their unexpected success last season. The squad was predicted to finish seventh a year ago and rounded out the regular season tied for third in the SEC.
A similar finish to last season could be possible with 14 returning players on the squad this year. In addition to those 14, there are a group of 10 talented freshmen on campus campaigning for minutes on the field for Ole Miss.
The Rebel’s leading returning scorer and two time all-SEC player Channing Foster is back leading the pack. She will be attacking the top alongside Molly Martin and Madisyn Pezzino. Freshman and Oxford native, Mo O’Connor, also joins the forward group. O’Connor is a two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year and has already scored twice in the red and blue, once in the exhibition match and again in the season opener against North Alabama.
“They are all going to carry most of the load up front for us, but we’ve got to share the ball,” head coach Matt Mott said. “We’ve got to get it to different places, we’ve got to get it on set pieces and hopefully score on corner kicks, and those types of things.”
The attackers up front will have to replace Cece Kizer, who was drafted No. 13 overall in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. Kizer set several records in the Rebel uniform, including the Ole Miss career record for goals and points, and was named to the All-SEC First Team in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
On defense, the Rebels have five returning starters with extensive experience along with three freshmen. Australian freshman Aimee Medwin played for Melbourne FC while taking part in the Australian National Training Program.
That seasoned defensive line will assist a young group of goalkeepers replacing four-year starter Marnie Merritt. Four-year starter Marnie Merritt will be hard to replace in the net. True freshman Lizah Pistorio and sophomore Tennessee transfer Ashley Orkus will be looked upon to defend the goal. Coach Mott has been impressed with what he has seen so far on the back end of the field.
“Orkus has been playing very well, actually pretty great. The stat line doesn’t show that, but she made a couple of really good saves for us,” Coach Mott said. “Our backline of Sydney Michalak, Maddy Houghton, Madison Smith and Chanel Thomas did a really good job for us as well out there. We’re off and running.”
Grace Johnson, Channing Foster and Haleigh Stackpole were selected for the SEC preseason watchlist. It’s the second straight appearance on the preseason watchlist for Foster and the first for Johnson and Stackpole.
The Rebels will host Southeast Missouri, Minnesota and Arkansas in the Rebel Classic this weekend. Ole Miss will matchup against Southeast Missouri on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Minnesota on Sunday at 11 a.m at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium.