OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss soccer team took to the pitch Wednesday morning to kick off preseason workouts with the first of two practices as the Rebels prepare for the upcoming season which begins on August 22, when Ole Miss hosts Georgia.
The season-opening match with the Bulldogs will begin at 6 p.m. at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium and is the first live event to be broadcast by the SEC Network.
“We’re very happy with the fitness level of the team,” said Ole Miss head coach Matthew Mott. “Our strength coach, Randy Dorvin, has done a tremendous job and that allows us to start so much further along on the first day. We’re in a great spot physically.
“I’m happy with the speed and pace with which we trained this morning and that will help us with the style of play we want to put on the field this fall,” Mott said. “The attitude of the players was great and exactly what you look for as a coach. The players were energized and there was a buzz as they were flying all over the field in drills.”
Twenty-two players took to the field for Ole Miss, including 16 returning players and six newcomers as the Rebels look to build on the most successful season in program history. In 2013, Ole Miss finished 16-6-2 on the year and fourth in the Southeastern Conference standings with a 7-3-1 record.
The 16 wins marked the most in a single season for the program as the Rebels advanced to the fifth NCAA Tournament all-time and hosted an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in program history. Ole Miss defeated Jackson State 9-0 in that opening-round game before falling to top-ranked Florida State on the road in the second round, as the Seminoles would go on to finish as runners up for the national championship.
With the goal in sight to build on that successful campaign, the Rebels hit the field for technical drills to start the first day of practice under the watchful eye of the coaching staff, athletics trainers, and the strength and conditioning staff.
Ole Miss will close out the first day of practice when the Rebels hit the field again at 8 p.m. tonight for 11-on-11 competition.
The opening day of practice comes on the heels of a full day of orientation, acclimation and team meetings on Tuesday as the student-athletes met with different members of the Ole Miss Athletics staff, including compliance, media relations, athletic training, strength and conditioning and academics. The squad also received its new Nike equipment for the season as a part of reporting day.
The Rebels will continue practice through the next two weeks alternating two-a-day practices with single practice days, strength training and cardiovascular fitness workouts.
Kelly McCormick is the lone senior for the upcoming season as the goalkeeper has started all three years for the Rebels and is the all-time wins leader in goal (34). She posted a 16-6-2 mark as a junior while seeing the full time in goal in 19 matches and posting 10 shutout victories.
The Rebels also welcome back a large junior class of seven players for the upcoming season and nine players among last year’s freshman class.
Ole Miss returns several playmakers for the 2014 season, including forwards Olivia Harrison, Bethany Bunker and Addie Forbus, who combined for 17 of the team’s goals last season. In all, the Rebels return seven players who notched goals a year ago, and 39 career goals among all returning players in the junior and sophomore classes over the last two seasons.
Harrison (13), Bunker (7) and midfielder Jennifer Miller (6) are among the top goal scorers in the junior class. Also returning to the lineup for the Rebels will be Sara Coleman, who missed last season after a freshman year that saw the speedy forward notch three goals, including the game-winner in a shutout of Kentucky.
The group helped post 10 shutout victories a year ago and 17 matches with one goal or fewer allowed. The rising junior class has helped lead the Rebels to 18 shutout victories over the last two seasons and 30 total matches with no more than one goal allowed by opponents.
The versatility of the returning athletes for the Rebels adds to the prospects for 2014 despite the loss of senior midfielder Erin Emerson, along with the departure of Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza up top. Miller returns for her third season at midfield, while attacking defenders Harknett and Hiskey can both move up to the midfield to provide an effective combination of defense and offense along with Miller in the middle.
Add in an exciting freshman class and it’s hard to miss the excitement surrounding the program heading into the 2014 season.
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