After an anti-climactic start to the 2021 regular season, Ole Miss Soccer is looking ahead to their second official home opener, with hopes to get the season off on the right foot. What was supposed to be the team’s first home game since April turned into a rained out match against East Tennessee State University on Thursday, Aug. 19.
The Rebels look to continue their dominant home game performances in the newly designated home opener Thursday, Aug. 26 against Middle Tennessee State University.
Despite an irregular 2020 season, played mostly in the spring, the Rebels made full use of their home field advantage at Ole Miss Soccer Stadium. Even in front of a reduced capacity crowd, the Rebels finished 7-0 with five straight wins at home. In the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the Rebels seemed unstoppable, advancing to the Sweet 16 after beating the No. 8 overall seed on penalty kicks. Ole Miss eventually fell to the No. 6 seed 1-0, ending their NCAA Championship run in the round of 16 for the second time in team history.
Last year’s dominant performances by Senior goalkeeper Ashley Orkus did not go unnoticed. Leading up to the home opener this Thursday, Orkus has been placed on the TopDrawerSoccer Preseason Best XI First Team, SEC Preseason watchlist and has been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List.
Senior forward Channing Foster also landed on the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest award given to the nation’s best Division 1 soccer player. Along with Orkus, Foster was also named to the SEC Preseason watchlist. This will be Foster’s final season as an Ole Miss Rebel before she heads to the National Women’s Soccer League to play for the Chicago Red Stars. During her time at Ole Miss, Foster has become the leading goal scorer, as well as a four-time SEC honoree.
Three other Rebels earned their way onto the 2021 SEC Preseason Watchlist, including senior midfielder Molly Martin and senior defender Sydney Michalak. Another mainstay on the starting lineup is senior midfielder Haleigh Stackpole. Stackpole earned her spot on the Preseason Watchlist after leading the team last season with 16 points, including four goals and eight assists.
With only four players not returning to the pitch from last year’s roster, Ole Miss Soccer is bringing back all goals, assists and saves. Nine new freshmen, hailing from across the Southeast and Canada, along with two transfers, Sydney Ash from Virginia Tech and Stella Downing from Memphis, make up the 11 new players rostered.
Rebel fans can also look forward to the return of senior forward Lonnie Mulligan after her junior season was cut short due to an injury in the fourth game of the 2020 season. Mulligan is a dominant force for the Rebel offense and will be looking to add to her two career goals, four assists and 17 shots on goal.
Fans can catch this week’s home opener against Middle Tennessee on Thursday at 7 p.m. streaming on SEC Network +.