The Ole Miss Rebels defeated the Clemson Tigers 2-1 in an extremely competitive first-round matchup in the NCAA Women’s College Cup in Clemson, South Carolina. These teams last met in 2015 when Ole Miss beat Clemson in penalty kicks on their way to the Sweet 16.
Rebel senior Mary Kate Smith’s second goal of the season came at a great time to give the Rebels the lead in the 24th minute following a fantastic feed from senior CeCe Kizer. Smith struck the ball low and hard to drill her shot past the keeper and into the net.
“I kind of blacked-out a little bit because I was so excited, but it was an awesome assist by CeCe and just a total team effort the entire time,” Smith said.
Junior Gabby Little earned a corner after doing the defender in with a fake shot, but a second Clemson defender was able to deflect the shot and prevent a goal. Ole Miss went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, which almost wasn’t the case due to a last-minute effort by Clemson’s Miranda Westlake that went just over the crossbar.
The second half got off to a bad start for the Rebels, who allowed the Tigers to equalize in the first 30 seconds of the half. Head coach Matt Mott wanted to his team to play in front of the Tigers’ defense and made a few defensive adjustments after the goal.
“We thought we could play in front of their back-line and we did that, that’s how we set up the goal, so that was important,” Mott said.
The game wouldn’t stay level for long, with Ole Miss reclaiming the lead 10 minutes later through a clutch goal by sophomore defender Grace Johnson. Johnson’s first goal of the season gave the Rebels the lead in the 55th minute.
“I ran straight to the bench, I was so excited that was my first goal of the year, so I was really excited about that too, and Stack (Haleigh Stackpole) sent in a perfect ball,” Johnson said.
Freshman Morgan McAslan made a beautiful save in the 79th minute to keep the Rebels ahead. Clemson pressured the Rebels in the game’s final few minutes, but Ole Miss was defensively sound and secured the victory.
Seniors Kizer and Mary Kate Smith were both happy with the result and to continue their careers as Rebels.
“It’s huge you know… just to extend our season as seniors is really great and we’ve always talked about wanting to go out to California and do that, so getting to go out and compete against the number one team in the nation is really exciting,” Kizer said.
This was a positive result in a bounce-back game for Ole Miss, who had a disappointing showing in the SEC tournament against Arkansas. The Rebels played an excellent game against the Tigers to get the much more important win. The Rebels will face the No.1 overall seed, the Stanford Cardinals, on Friday in the second round of the tournament.
“This group of girls, there’s such a unique bond and knowing that we’re not done with this group of girls is an awesome feeling,” Smith said.
Coach Mott knows the importance of this next game, but he is not going to let that impact the way his team prepares for the road trip.
“It’s going to be a normal week for us, we’ve got to get out to California, but it’s going to be a normal week we’re going to keep doing what we do,” Mott said.