OXFORD, Miss. - The seniors came up big in the regular-season finale Thursday, getting a pair of goals from both Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza to help push No. 25 Ole Miss (14-4-2, 7-3-1 SEC) to a 5-1 win over Mississippi State (3-15-0, 0-11-0 SEC) and claim the Magnolia Cup in the annual meeting between the two teams.
With her two goals, Souza moved into second place on the career goal list and is one goal shy of tying the school record for goals in a season set by Sarah Comeaux in 1996. Comeaux tallied 41 goals in her career with the Rebels.
Junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick also tied the school record for goalkeeper wins in a career as the victory gave McCormick her 32nd career win in goal to tie the mark set by Brittany Gillespie in 2003.
The win on Thursday also tied the most wins in a regular season, set by the 2005 team and is one shy of the school record for wins in a season set in the 2003 campaign that included wins in the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
"We were led by our seniors tonight," said Ole Miss head coach Matthew Mott. "I'm really happy with the performance by the team. We worked hard and got the ball in good spots. When we got the chance to finish we did. Everyone got to play in our last home game and now we're ready to head to the SEC Tournament and see what we can do in the postseason.
"We're excited we tied the record for wins in a regular season and hope to break the record for wins in the SEC Tournament, but we're not done and still have a lot to play for this season," Mott said.
The Rebels got off to a quick start, putting the first goal on the board in the eighth minute when Erin Emerson sent a corner kick into the box from the far side of the field to Souza. The senior forward took the ball and put it into the net past the keeper to give Ole Miss the quick 1-0 lead.
Souza again found the goal in the 32nd minute when the Rebels took off on a breakaway with Bethany Bunker bringing the ball down the field. Bunker tapped the ball ahead to a streaking Souza in the box and the senior beat the Mississippi State keeper one-on-one to give Ole Miss the two goal advantage that was in place at half time.
The second half saw another senior step up as McCalla found the back of the net for the Rebels next two goals. Ole Miss took a shot in the 62nd minute of play that was blocked, but the ball bounced right back to the feet of McCalla on the deflection and the senior drilled it into the goal to give the Rebels the 3-0 advantage.
The lead grew from there as McCalla again found the back of the net in the 73rd minute on a ball played back across the box by freshman Addie Forbus. On a hustle play along the baseline in the near corner of the box, Forbus beat the Mississippi State defender to the ball and sent it back across the box to McCalla in the middle of the six-yard box, where McCalla then sent the ball into the goal for the 4-0 advantage.
Forbus gave the Rebels a five goal lead moments later when Emerson notched her second assist of the night on a corner. The senior sent the ball in from the near side on her corner kick and found the chest of Forbus by the far post. The freshman played the ball off her chest and into the net to give Ole Miss the five goal edge on the Bulldogs and cap the scoring for the home team on the night.
With the game firmly in hand, the Rebels turned to the bench to close out the final 15 minutes of play.
Mississippi State avoided the shutout with its lone goal of the night in the 89th minute when Elisabeth Sullivan got loose on a breakaway and found the back of the net as she slipped a shot in past a diving Rebel keeper to put the Bulldogs on the board.
Ole Miss will now head to the Southeastern Conference Tournament as the four-seed and will face the fifth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The Rebels earned a bye on the first day of competition by virtue of finishing fourth in the SEC with the win over Mississippi State. Ole Miss and Kentucky did not face each other in the regular season this year.
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