July 2, 1998
In its first three seasons, the Ole Miss Lady Rebel soccer program has been the hunter trying to keep up on the soccer powers in the Southeastern Conference, pouncing on them when they least expected it and pulling out victory. Despite playing with low numbers the first two years, Ole Miss did just that occasionally. No, the Lady Rebels did not always win on the field, but their hard-nosed play won them respect from their opponents.
However, a change began to occur in the fall of 1997. Yes, Ole Miss was still the hunter, but this time, the Lady Rebels were gaining victories on the field along with respect. Ole Miss finished the 1997 campaign with its first-ever winning record at 11-9 and posted a 4-4 mark in SEC play. The four conference wins qualified the Lady Rebels for their first-ever SEC Tournament. The Ole Miss soccer program had arrived and was challenging the top teams in the league.
Now, as the 1998 soccer season approaches, the role of the Ole Miss Lady Rebel soccer program has changed entirely from its first two seasons. The Lady Rebels are now the hunted, and it is a role that Ole Miss head coach Steve Holeman says will motivate his squad.
"I believe that we are going to be one of the favorites to win the SEC Western Division title this fall," says Holeman, who is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Ole Miss. "Last year, we finished tied for second in the division, and we also had a really good spring season in which we went 4-0-1 against conference teams. I think we are going to be one of the favorites, and I see that serving as motivation for the players."
Indeed, the Lady Rebels will be one of the picks to win the SEC Western Division, especially with 19 letterwinners and 10 starters returning for 1998. Last year, Ole Miss was a very young team that probably should have taken an entire season to grow and mature. But, while the team matured, the chemistry between the upperclassmen and newcomers clicked immediately in preseason which enabled the Lady Rebels to have an outstanding year.
"We had a young team last year, and now those players have gained a season of experience which should prove beneficial going into this fall," Holeman says. "I anticipate 1998 to be our best season to date. We made vast improvements from 1996 to 1997, and I think we, as a team, are expecting big things to happen this year. We had a very strong spring, and the players are ready to come back and play this fall."
The following is a breakdown of the 1998 Lady Rebel soccer team:
Although the Lady Rebels do not have much depth on the forward line, Holeman does have plenty of talent with which to work to put together an attack. Sophomore Regan Scanlon (Pittsford, N.Y.) returns up front to lead the attack for Ole Miss. Last year, Scanlon was the squad's third-leading scorer with 22 points (8 goals, 6 assists).
"Regan did a great job for us last fall and was very consistent," Holeman says. "She improved a lot during the spring, and we're expecting even more from Regan this fall."
An addition to the Lady Rebels this spring was junior Amaris Smith (Klein, Texas), who transferred to Ole Miss from Texas Tech. Smith, who played for Ole Miss this past spring, saw action in 37 games and started 35 in her two seasons at Texas Tech. She scored 20 goals and recorded six assists (46 points) in her two years as a Lady Raider. Last season, Smith was the squad's second-leading scorer with 19 points (9 goals, 1 assist). Holeman looks for Smith's presence to be a big help for the Lady Rebels.
"Amaris played a lot for us up front this spring," says Holeman. "Amaris is a very dangerous player. She is a versatile player who can score goals and create opportunities for her teammates. She will bring a lot to our offensive attack because our opponents are going to have to be concerned with her and will have to defend her with their top defensive player."
Other returnees who may see playing time on the forward line are juniors Jenny Curry (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) and Natalie Martt (Kenner, La.). Both players have seen playing time up front the past two seasons and will be expected to contribute this fall. Another returnee who may see some action up top is sophomore Jennifer Soileau (Baton Rouge, La.). Soileau, who led the team in scoring last year (31 points) from her center midfield spot, played on the forward line during the spring season and can make the move there if needed.
With the lack of depth on the forward line, freshman Ashley Martin (Baton Rouge, La.) could see some playing time. Martin was an All-State, All-District and All-Parish pick for St. Joseph's Academy.
As it was last year, the midfield is the strongest and deepest area for the Lady Rebels in 1998. On the outside, Ole Miss returns senior Tammy Zegledi (Winter Park, Fla.) and sophomore Sarah Wong (Vancouver, British Columbia). A three-year starter, Zegledi has been a solid performer for the Lady Rebels and will have to continue her high-level play for Ole Miss to be successful in 1998. Zegledi, who scored 10 points a year ago, enters the 1998 campaign with 70 career points (28 goals, 14 assists) and needs 16 points to become the program's all-time leading scorer.
At the other outside midfield spot is Wong. In her freshman season in 1997, Wong made her mark as she was named All-SEC first team, becoming the first-ever Lady Rebel to earn first team honors. A starter in 19 games, Wong was the team's second-leading scorer with 27 points (10 goals, 7 assists). Freshman Dallas Bird (Tulsa, Okla.) may also see action at outside midfield.
"Tammy has been a mainstay for us on the outside mid the last three years," says Holeman. "She has been solid for us. Tammy has played at the outside mid for the last three years, so we can always count on her experience to help us there. Sarah is another solid player for us. She adds speed to our attack, and she can score a lot of goals.
"Dallas can possibly come in and see some time at outside mid. She is a strong, hard worker who can get up and down the field."
The center midfield spot is the deepest position on the squad, with possibly five Lady Rebels seeing time there. Two Lady Rebels o Soileau and Smith o may see time at center mid although both will probably move to the forward lineee in 1998. Soileau started all 20 games last season at center mid.
Three other returnees will battle for time at center midfield. Senior Leah Rutledge (Chapel Hill, N.C.) started at center midfield the first two years of the program in 1995 and 1996, and proved she was quite the playmaker, recording 39 assists in those two seasons. In 1997, Rutledge was moved to sweeper to shore up the Lady Rebel defense, but Holeman is looking to put Rutledge back in the midfield this season. Sophomore Ashley Newport (Maple Ridge, British Columbia) will also battle for playing time at center mid. Newport missed the spring season with a knee injury, but is expected to return for the fall. Sophomore Mary Ann Moss (Jackson, Miss.) may see action at center mid, after having a solid spring season at that position. Last year, Moss played in 19 games and scored 10 points (4 goals, 2 assists).
Other Lady Rebels who will fight for playing time at midfield are senior Michelle Dubuc (Baton Rouge, La.) and freshman Ashley Thompson (Bradenton, Fla.).
The Ole Miss defense was the most improved area of the team a year ago, and it is even better entering the 1998 season.
"Our defense is going to be better because it is going to be more organized," Holeman says. "Our defenders have learned to play different systems whether we're playing four or three in the back or man-to-man or zone. Now, those players have game experience in working within these different systems from last fall and spring, so I think the defense is going to be better organized and that is going to make the whole squad better. They have learned their roles individually and collectively as a defense."
Leading the defensive troops is senior Elizabeth Lee (Collierville, Tenn.), who will look to gain the starting spot at sweeper. Lee, who has seen action at sweeper in her previous three seasons, was solid at sweeper for Ole Miss during the spring and will be counted on to lead the Lady Rebel defensive effort in the fall. Freshman Melissa Seymour (Lilburn, Ga.) will battle Lee for time at sweeper.
Junior Amy Lucas (Tallahassee, Fla.) and sophomores Amanda Carpenter (Prairie Village, Kan.) and Jessica O'Neill (Vancouver, British Columbia) all return to give Ole Miss its most experienced defense in the program's history. Lucas, one of the Lady Rebels' three captains in 1997, has seen most of her time at midfield the past two seasons, but had several solid showings on defense during the spring campaign. Carpenter returns as the team's top marking back and should keep her starting spot. O'Neill, who started 14 games a year ago, had an outstanding spring and should compete for a starting position on defense.
Juniors Brooke Riley (Gulfport, Miss.) and Leigh Frisbee (Lewisville, Texas) and sophomore Sara Schauberger (Russellville, Ky.) will also battle for playing time on defense.
Junior Birna Bjornsdottir (Reykjavik, Iceland) made a tremendous impact in her first year in net in 1997, and Holeman expects the same and even more in 1998. Last season, Bjornsdottir started 19 games in goal, recording school single-season records for saves (97), shutouts (4) and victories (11).
"I am looking for Birna to come back strong in the fall," says Holeman. "She had a real good spring season, and I know that she is working hard this summer. Birna was our starter last year, and she should be this year as well."
Battling Bjornsdottir for time in net are sophomore Aelish McCreary (Markham, Ontario) and Melinda Smith (Tacoma, Wash.). McCreary played in five games last season and recorded two shutouts. A four-year starter in net at Stadium High School, Smith posted a 0.62 career goals-against average and 39 shutouts.
"Aelish and Melinda will compete with Birna for the starting spot in goal," says Holeman. "I expect the battle for the starting goalkeeper spot to be more competitive this year."
Indeed, it looks as if the role has changed for the Ole Miss Lady Rebel soccer program. A program that was once the hunter is now the hunted. Holeman says that being a favorite to capture the SEC Western Division title is motivation for his team, but what about the pressure?
"It's not going to be pressure being a favorite because we've never won the SEC Western Division championship before, we've never had these high expectations placed on us from others," Holeman says. "Our expectations come from ourselves. We set goals for motivation and something to reach for Striving for our goals is not pressure."