Ole Miss soccer travels to Tennessee for top 25 battle Thursday

Posted on Oct 5 2017 - 7:59am by Ethan Wright

Alley Houghton kicks a pass through the South Carolina defense during the 2-0 defeat earlier this season. Photo by Billy Schuerman

A Thursday night showdown in Knoxville, Tennessee, between two top-25 SEC foes will be the backdrop for Ole Miss soccer’s next outing. The matchup, which pits the No. 24 Rebels against No. 21 Tennessee, will see Ole Miss attempt to bounce back after last weekend’s shutout at the hands of No. 3 South Carolina.

The Rebels’ 2-0 loss to the Gamecocks marked the first time this season that Ole Miss has allowed more than one goal in a single game. Still, the Rebels boast the impressive statistic of allowing only five goals through their first 12 games. That defense will be key against the high-scoring Volunteers, ranked third in the SEC with 2.08 goals per game.

In addition to an offense that can score on the best, Tennessee also wields an aggressive and formidable defense, topping the conference with eight shutouts and ranking fifth in the NCAA with 0.33 goals-against average.

While Tennessee’s defense appears nearly impenetrable, Ole Miss is one of a select few teams with the talent to break through the wall and place shots on junior Tennessee goalkeeper Shae Yanez. Freshman Channing Foster and junior CeCe Kizer lead the SEC with 10 goals apiece, which is also good for a fourth place tie in the NCAA’s leaderboards.

The duo’s scoring will be as much of a necessity as ever on Thursday, as the Volunteers’ Khadija Shaw provides a scoring prowess equivalent to that of Foster and Kizer. The junior leads everyone in the SEC (who is not in an Ole Miss uniform) in both points and goals.

With so much talent on both sides of the ball, predicting the outcome poses a challenge. History weighs heavily in Tennessee’s favor, as the Volunteers lead the Rebels 14-4-2 in their all-time series, but it was Ole Miss who triumphed the last time the teams met in Knoxville.

Though history can only somewhat predict the future, maybe this season’s exploits will best showcase the most likely winner.

Ole Miss’ nation-leading offense barely edges out Tennessee’s in every major offensive category. While the margin is slim, it is safe to say that behind Kizer, Foster and the many other talented players, the Rebels offensively outgun the Volunteers.

Defensively, the roles are reversed, with Tennessee just barely leading Ole Miss in each major category. Again, while the difference is marginal, the Volunteers hold the advantage on the defensive side of the game.

When push comes to shove, the pitting of high-powered offenses against stingy defenses seems as if this showdown will be that of the unstoppable force and immovable object, with no one knowing what to expect when they meet. Bringing such a large amount of excitement to the pitch, this highly entertaining bout will kick off at 6 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.