Two games into conference play this season, the Ole Miss soccer team is heading into a huge weekend against Southeastern Conference foes Alabama and LSU. Though the Rebels have not yet notched a conference win, head soccer coach Matthew Mott is confident his team will soon do so.
After defeating rival Memphis 2-1 in overtime off a lone playmaking goal from freshman forward CeCe Kizer on Sunday night, Mott can tell how badly his Ole Miss team wants a conference win by the way his team competes night in and night out.
Road warriors return home this weekend
Last Friday night, the Rebels suffered a 4-1 defeat at No. 12 Florida, then got a bounce-back win over the Tigers to end their non-conference schedule with a 6-0-2 record. Overall, Mott was pleased with his team’s performances.
“I have been going to Gainesville since 1995 with four different teams: UCF, Auburn, Texas and now Ole Miss, and I have yet to win down there,” Mott said explaining just how difficult it is playing the Gators in Florida. “We battled with them until the 77th minute and they took a 2-1 lead, then got two more at the end. I am really proud of how the team played.”
“Then we had to get back to Oxford and get ready to go play against our rival Memphis. Those were two really tough games for us on the weekend, traveling to both places. Last night, I thought we had a great match against Memphis. We came out in the first half and played very well.”
The word “tough” Mott used to describe Ole Miss’ two road games was a testament to the physicality the Rebels carry on their shoulders each time they step onto the soccer field to kick, run, slide, push, and scratch for 90 minutes–especially against the Tigers, who held a 1-0 lead for majority of the first half and part of the second half until Kizer, Ole Miss’ leader in goals (9), scored the game’s final two goals to put the Rebels over the hump for their sixth win of the year.
Ole Miss has fared decently in road games, posting a 1-1-1 record, but Mott sees the difference in rhythm when his team plays at home versus on the road. But he continues to tell them to fight through each hurdle for a positive outcome.
“Playing on the road is hard,” Mott said after his team’s win over Memphis. “It’s hard. You’re not comfortable and it’s not what you are used to, but good teams find a way here and that’s what we have started doing. I told them, ‘Every team goes through this in these type of games and it’s going to define your season’ and they answered the call and I appreciated that.”
The Rebels (6-2-2, 0-2 SEC) have also ingrained the word “compete” in their repertoire, which is something Ole Miss has done all season long, winning four of its first five games before ending in a 2-2 tie against then-No. 19-ranked Central Florida over two weeks ago. The Rebels, then, split games with Bluegrass foes Kentucky (L 4-2) and Louisville (W 2-1).
Rebels ready to face the Tide and Gators at home
Mott and the Rebels will have the opportunity to even their conference record when the Crimson Tide and Tigers come visit on Friday and Sunday night. The Rebels have been successful at home, posting a 5-1-1 record.
“LSU is coming in on Sunday with a 7-1-2 record and are playing great soccer. LSU has two of the best forwards in the nation,” Mott said. “We have Alabama on Friday night, who is also playing very well. They beat LSU not too long ago. They have a new coach and a new style in how they are playing. They are off to a great start as well. SEC play is heating up and we need to jump in the middle of it for sure. The rest of our games are SEC games for us. I am happy with the team and the way we are playing,” he added.
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics