Ole Miss Soccer: Defense Key To Success

Senior Kelly McCormick and the Rebels take to the field against Georgia on Friday.

Senior Kelly McCormick and the Rebels take to the field against Georgia on Friday.

Aug. 21, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss women’s soccer team takes to the field Friday night to open the 2014 season against the Georgia Bulldogs on the SEC Network, and when things kick off at 6 p.m. it will be with the Rebels putting an experienced defensive unit on the field.

Ole Miss returns what is arguably its most veteran unit with a defense that features a senior in goal and a backline comprised of two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman that have combined for 106 starts over the past three seasons.

“We’re excited about our defense, it’s the first time we’ve had a wealth of experience in the back,” said Ole miss head coach Matt Mott. “Kelly (McCormick) is at the top of her game. She looked really sharp and had a great fall camp. She’s worked extremely hard in the offseason to get herself ready. She’s sharp and quick to the ball, and she gets herself in great position. You can’t replace her experience.

“I feel really good about our goalkeeping with Madi and Marnie also on deck for us. I would argue that with those three, we have the best goalkeeping unit in the country. Rob Thompson has done a great job  with all three of them and I hope Kelly just continues to pile on the career win record this season.”

McCormick has posted 34 career wins in goal for the Rebels, setting the school record in three seasons with the win over Jackson State in the NCAA Tournament last season. She’s posted 21 shutouts in her three-year career and will help direct a back line anchored by a pair of experienced juniors in the middle of the defense.

Maddie Friedmann and Samantha Sanders will work in the middle of the Rebels’ line again this season after combining with McCormick to help lead Ole Miss to 29 wins, 18 shutout victories and 31 games holding opponents to one goal or fewer over the past two seasons.

“Maddie reads the game so well and puts herself in great spots as a middle anchor in our back line,” Mott said. “Sam is back off injury from a year ago and looks better every day. We’re excited to get her back as the impactful center back that she was for us the last two seasons.

In addition to Friedmann and Sanders in the middle, the Rebels will also look to a pair of younger players to help turn away opposing offenses along the outside of the back line. Sophomore Melissa Capocaccia and freshman Courtney Carroll are expected to start, giving the Rebels a pair of young, but physical players on the outside and bolstering the strength of the defense.

“Melissa returns for her sophomore season and is very fit,” Mott said. “Last year her job was to get the ball to Rafa, but this year we want her to get herself forward and make herself a playmaker in the offense. Courtney has really impressed us as a physical, strong player with a lot of speed this preseason. We’re expecting her to contribute quickly.”

Ole Miss will also have the flexibility of adding redshirt sophomore Georgia Russell to the backline as the versatile athlete is expected to see minutes on the front line and along the back line to help the Rebels this season. That depth is one of the biggest factors for the optimism among the coaching staff this year.

“I feel very good about our depth this year and it’s probably the best I’ve felt about our depth as a team heading into a season in my five years at Ole Miss,” Mott said. “The quality of players we put on the field is great from top to bottom.”

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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