Sept. 21, 2004
By Jeff Mitchell
Athletics Media Relations Student Assistant
For centuries, sages and scholars have been fascinated with the study of groups in an attempt to understand how these organizations form, change, dissipate, commit grave wrongs, and more often achieve great success. The study of group dynamics becomes more intriguing when presented with the idea that no two groups are the same even when striving to reach a common goal.
In the wide world of sports, researchers with an affinity for examining team biorhythms most frequently seek to determine the certain characteristics that help comprise the true championship club. The answer most commonly discovered lies within the core of a particular team's nucleus. So with a curious eye cast upon the 2004 Ole Miss soccer team, an intuitive response to the simple question of what makes the Rebels tick is simple; look no further than the senior class.
The traits are obvious: leadership, intensity, dedication, diligence, consistency, and winning. During the past three campaigns, this season's senior class helped Ole Miss reach its first NCAA Tournament, earn the school's first NCAA Tournament win, and post its highest single-season winning percentage in 2002. Moreover, this habitually successful and remarkably talented group helped Ole Miss chart a season record for victories in 2003, register its most wins ever over a three-year span, and claim its first-ever top-25 ranking.
Consisting of six players, the most decorated senior unit in Rebel soccer history includes Leigh Barrow, Lindley Beckman, Karen Hall, Kristal Menard, Laura Price, and Ramey Rush. Together, the successful six played in a combined 340 matches during their first three years, making the cluster the most experienced class to ever wear the Red and Blue.
Recapping their first three seasons, Barrow played in 53 games and was twice named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll; Beckman participated in 64 games and was selected to the 2003 Academic All-America First Team; Hall saw 62 games of action and led the group with 16 goals; All-America candidate Menard played 63 games and was a two-time All-SEC and All-Region First Team selection; Price took part in 34 games and was named to the 2002 SEC Academic Honor Roll; and Rush boasted 64 games of experience and is the only player to have started every match the last three years.
The senior class expects to meet again this high standard of excellence in its final year on the familiar pitch at Ole Miss Soccer Stadium. With determination as its watchword for the 2004 season, this ensemble looks to add even more distinction to its already full list of accolades.
"We're proud of what we've accomplished," says team co-captain Menard. "Our career at Ole Miss has been exciting, but we want to make our final season the best one yet. We are extremely driven."
"They're hungry," remarks 10th-year head coach Steve Holeman. "They want an SEC West title, and they want an SEC title. This is the most successful senior class we've had at Ole Miss and probably the most talented. They've helped carry this program to a new level."
That level is a high bar which the senior class hopes will serve as a springboard for future success, the dynamics of which the seniors hope will be inherited by the younger classes.
"Our dedication to hard work and our commitment to winning have helped us achieve over the past three years," explains co-captain Beckman. "We've established a team unity that works for us, and we've thrived off it. We'd like to see it continue."