Aug. 21, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. -- Every team has its leaders, and for the Ole Miss soccer team three rose above the rest, having been voted tri-captains by their teammates.
A trio of juniors in Samantha Sanders, Jessica Hiskey and Jennifer Miller have proven to be vital pieces in the building of the Ole Miss soccer program. As the team moves into the 2014 season, the trio will look to take the program to another level.
"Sam Sanders was a captain last year for us and did a great job," head coach Matt Mott said. "She's a very good leader, very strong personality and understands what we want to do and how we want to play. When the team voted, they voted those three almost unanimously for captain.
"Jess brings a level of confidence. She's a very good player and does everything right and works really hard. You can say almost the same about Jenn. They're both really hard workers and leaders by example. They understand it. They're committed. They do everything right."
One season ago, Sanders served as a tri-captain along with now-graduated seniors Erin Emerson and Mandy McCalla. She started the first 36 games of her collegiate career on the Rebels' back line before tearing her ACL in early October, ending her sophomore season.
She has returned from injury and was voted a tri-captain by her teammates for the second straight season, along with Hiskey, a two-year starter on the back line who moves to the midfield, and Miller, a two-year starter in the midfield.
On a veteran-laden team with nine upperclassmen, coaches and players agreed those three separated themselves with their leadership and approachability, on and off the field.
"What separated Jess and Jenn was their ability, on the field, to make plays and step up the intensity on the field," Sanders said. "When things are not going well, they bring up the energy. Off the field, players follow them and look to them for advice and strength."
With three captains, they're able to get different points of views and the best way to go about things. Overall, they agreed it's been easy to lead because of the effort and energy the team has put into preseason work.
"We all three have different strengths in our leadership ability, so it's nice to have a mixture of all three of those when you have 24 players who respond differently to different kinds of leadership," Sanders said.
Ole Miss made history this past season, not only setting a school record for wins, but also hosting an NCAA Tournament game for the first time and winning its second NCAA Tournament game in five trips to the annual event, and the trio played a significant part in that.
"They came in with the idea that they were going to raise the program to another level and to new heights, and they have absolutely helped us to do that," Mott said. "They understand what we want as a coaching staff and they understand what the players need and what it means to be a high-level student-athlete. They epitomize what it means to be a student-athlete."
But they want more.
"It's an honor to be a captain with all the talent and the strides we have made," Hiskey said. "We have a chance to make this team better and lead this team to an even better season."
The Rebels open the 2014 season with the first live, regular-season game on the SEC Network when they host Georgia on Friday at 6 p.m. CT.
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller.