Ole Miss soccer met with Bowling Green State in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship and gave fans a game that will be hard to forget. The Rebels earned the victory in the seventh round of penalty kicks (PK) after a scoreless regulation and overtime. Sophomore forward Mo O’Connor scored the go-ahead PK, and junior goalkeeper Ashley Orkus secured the win.
“It was a great team win. Battling through tough external conditions against a tough team is never easy, but if any team is going to push through it, it’s us,” Orkus said.
The first half of the matchup between the Rebels and Falcons featured a strong Rebel offense, with two solid shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of play. In the 18th minute, O’Connor took a shot from outside the six yard box that had the Falcon keeper beat, but it bounced off the post for a goal kick.
Less than two minutes later, junior Haleigh Stackpole had a chance off of a free kick right outside the eighteen, causing the Bowling Green State keeper to make a diving save.
Bowling Green State got their fair share of opportunities off of four back-to-back corners. Orkus made two saves to keep her clean sheet in the first half. Going into halftime, Ole Miss had better chances offensively, despite the shots being even at four for both sides.
Bowling Green State came out hot in the second half, generating strong chances from their first string of corners in the 55th minute. A bouncing ball in the six yard box looked to be trouble for the Rebel defense, but they were able to settle the ball and earn a goal kick.
The Rebels weren’t able to create a lot of offense in the second half, but strong defensive plays by freshman Price Loposer and junior Sydney Michalak kept the score at 0-0 heading into overtime.
In the NCAA tournament, if there is a tie after regulation, teams will play in two 10-minute “golden goal” overtime periods, followed by a penalty kick shootout if needed. After a very physical game resulting in 16 fouls against the Falcons, overtime was not enough to produce a winner.
Channing Foster took the Rebel’s first PK, but it was saved by the Falcon’s keeper. After Bowling Green State slotted their first PK and saved the Rebel’s second, the season looked to be coming to an end for Ole Miss soccer.
However, the SEC goalkeeper of the year came up big for the Rebels with four saves during the penalty shootout. In the seventh round of PK’s, O’Connor was able to finish her shot in the side netting, putting the Rebels in the lead.
The seventh PK for Bowling Green bounced off of the post, ending their season and sending the Rebels to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve spent all season determined to be tougher and outwork our opponents, and we showed that against Bowling Green,” Orkus said. “PK shootouts are never easy, but they’re a heck of a lot of fun to win. It’s not just one person who wins these things. It’s a complete team win, with every single player on our team playing a crucial role.”
Ole Miss will face The University of Southern California (USC) on Friday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. EST. USC (7-3-3) is the eighth overall national seed in the tournament coming from the PAC-12 conference.