Bethany Bunker is one of two juniors looking to lead the front line for Ole Miss in 2014.
Aug. 19, 2014
OXFORD, Miss. – When the Ole Miss soccer team takes the field this Friday to open the 2014 campaign against the Georgia Bulldogs, there will be a lot of familiar faces on the field, but one missing that has people asking where the Rebels expect to get goal production.
While head coach Matthew Mott and the Rebels acknowledge that it’s always a challenge to replace the goal production from a player like the departed Rafaelle Souza. It’s not something the Rebels’ staff has lost too much sleep over, however, with the return of several players up front for the upcoming year.
“We return a pair of players who started every match last season and almost every match for the past two years in Bethany Bunker and Olivia Harrison,” Mott said. “We’re really going to focus on their leadership up there as fast, dynamic players who can get balls in the box and put themselves in a position to score. We’re going to lean on them heavily as they’ve played a ton of minutes and in a ton of big games.”
The pair combined for 13 goals and 15 assists a year ago, and have put together 20 total goals and 19 assists over a two-year span. The pair of juniors aren’t the only weapons in the arsenal for the upcoming season, however, as a pair of sophomores also look to be a big part of the equation when it comes to success in 2014.
Sara Coleman and Addie Forbus also return up front to give the Rebel lineup speed and athleticism across the board unlike that seen at Ole Miss.
“Addie had a very good freshman year and even better spring,” Mott said. “She really made a big splash in the spring and we’ll rely on her at center forward. She’s possibly our best finisher and without question knows how to score with the soccer ball. She puts herself in great spots and can play the ball well both right-footed and left-footed. She strikes the ball well, can turn on a dime, and is very fast and creative in front of the goal.
“Sara comes back after a year off and it’s nice to have her back on the field and in the lineup,” Mott said. “She’s back to the form she held as her freshman year. She’s a fast and powerful player.”
Forbus played well as a freshman in 2013, adding four goals for the Rebels along with six assists. Coleman also looks to contribute with growth from her freshman campaign that saw three goals and six assists.
The total package gives the Rebels a unit that passes the ball well, moves with speed and agility and possesses the ability to strike at any moment from most anywhere on the field. All told the five players have put 27 balls in the net and connected with another player for 31 assists over the past two years.
The threat of a multi-faceted attack is one that excites the Rebel coaching staff and makes the challenge of replacing the goal production of a departed All-America less intimidating and more thrilling.
“All of these players have grown and should continue to grow as we move into the season and have shown the ability to score,” Mott said. “That ability to create shots and pass should chip away at the goal deficit from losing our top two scorers from a year ago. We’ll definitely spread it around this season and opponents won’t be able to key in on simply stopping Rafa (Souza) or Mandy McCalla. I look for all of them to score and pressure teams, especially when you also look at our midfield and the ability for our offense to score from that position as well. Teams will have to deal with the entire front line.”
The Rebels continue to add depth with the emergence of junior Sydney Eddy and sophomore Mackenze Parma over the course of the spring, and the ability for sophomore Georgia Russell to play a role on the front line in addition to her traditional role as a defender.
“Those three players really help us with depth up top and make our front line a strength of our team from a pace and experience standpoint,” Mott said.
Rebel fans get the chance to see the squad in action this weekend with a pair of matches against challenging foes.
Ole Miss opens the season at 6 p.m. against the Georgia Bulldogs in a match that will be televised by the SEC Network and is the first live regular-season event broadcast by the newly launched network. The Rebels will then return to the pitch to take on Iowa State from the Big 12 at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to all matches at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium is free.
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