Sept. 7, 2005
OXFORD, Miss. -
For the third time in four years, the Ole Miss soccer team has won at least its first four matches, and the Rebels (4-0-0) will look to continue their winning ways when they host Saint Louis on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT and No. 12 Florida State (Soccer America) in a noon contest on Sunday.
Ole Miss dominated the UCF Invitational this past weekend, blanking host and top-30 ranked UCF 2-0 on Saturday and defeating Kent State by the same score on Monday. Five Rebels were named to the All-Tournament team, while freshman Jennifer Hance earned the tournament's Offensive MVP honors on her way to being named SEC Freshman of the Week. It was Ole Miss' second consecutive SEC Freshman of the Week award, as Amanda Verkin was the recipient in the season's first week.
The Rebels are led by a defense that has surrendered just one goal in four games. Sophomore goalkeepers Megan Vickery and Ann Shelton have combined to pitch three team shutouts. Vickery leads the club with 10 saves and has not allowed a goal.
Sophomore Chrissy Strini, a native of Cordova, Tenn., leads the squad with six points (2 goals, 2 assists) and has fired a team-high nine shots. Verkin shares the goals-scored lead with Strini with two goals.
"We've had a great start," said head coach Steve Holeman. "Our approach has been to take it one game at a time, and it's been working. Every game matters. It's great to be 4-0, but we have another game ahead of us."
On Thursday, the Rebels will try to avenge a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Saint Louis Billikens last season. Saint Louis is 3-1 this year. After losing its first match of the season to Oklahoma in overtime, Saint Louis has rattled off three straight wins over Rice, Southeast Missouri State and Illinois State.
"We suffered a loss to Saint Louis last year," Holeman said. "And the girls remember that. There's no doubt it is a big game for us. We'll be motivated to avenge the loss. We're ready to play our best and it's good to be back home."
The much-anticipated non-conference match on Sunday against No. 12 Florida State pits a pair of 4-0 teams coming into the week. The Seminoles will visit common opponent UCF on Wednesday before making the trip to Oxford. The perennial power Seminole club out of the Atlantic Coast Conference has made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
"It's not too often that one of the nation's top teams in the top conference in the country comes to your place," Holeman said. "In fact, we've never hosted a team from the ACC, but we'll be ready and eager to play this team. Florida State has some international players that are world class, and they are as good as any team in the SEC.
"This will be our most challenging weekend up to date this season. Our schedule is good because it has gotten progressively more difficult, and our team has also gotten progressively better."
On Thursday, the first 200 fans at the game will receive an Ole Miss soccer hat. Sunday will be "Armed Forces Day" at which all service men and women will receive complimentary admission to the match.