Oct. 5, 2005
OXFORD, Miss. -
Ole Miss returns to Oxford after four straight road matches to begin the Southeastern Conference season, as they prepare to host Alabama on Friday at 7 p.m. CT and Auburn on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium.
The Rebels improved their record to 9-3 overall over the road swing and have started the SEC season with three wins in four games, as they defeated Georgia, LSU and Arkansas by a score of 1-0 in each match and fell to Tennessee 1-0 in Knoxville.
The Ole Miss defense has been stellar this season, allowing seven goals on the year and only one in conference play. Both marks are second in the conference behind Vanderbilt, who has not allowed a goal in SEC play.
The combination of sophomore goalkeepers Ann Shelton and Megan Vickery have helped the Rebels to seven shutouts in the team's 12 matches, which also ranks second in the SEC behind Vandy. Shelton's 0.31 GAA is good for second in the league and is the 10th-best mark in the nation.
"This is a pivotal weekend for us," said Ole Miss head coach Steve Holeman. "It's a big weekend in the race for the SEC West, and winning our division has been one of our goals from the beginning. I think we are going to be a focused and confident team in our games against Alabama and Auburn.
"It's always nice to come home. Last week, it seemed that we had just gotten back to Oxford, and then we were leaving again. We are a little more relaxed at home, and it's good for the girls to catch up on their academics. It will certainly be great to be in front of our own fans and hopefully a big homecoming weekend crowd that will be rooting for Ole Miss."
On Friday, the Rebels will face an Alabama team with a high-powered offense that ranks first in the SEC in several offensive categories. The Crimson Tide are 6-3-2 on the year and 0-2-2 thus far in league play. They have put up four or more goals five times this season, including a 14-0 blowout of Nicholls State on Sept. 16. They are led by senior forward Libby Probst, who leads the SEC with 13 goals in 11 matches, to go along with six assists.
"Alabama is a very talented team and always one of our toughest conference opponents," Holeman said. "We have to be ready to match up with them physically. They are the top scoring team in the conference, and they are never easy to score on, so it's going to be a big challenge for us. We like having them at home, though. Tuscaloosa is probably the toughest place to play in the SEC. They have great fans and do very well there."
The Sunday match features another talent-laden squad in the Auburn Tigers. Auburn is 3-7-1 overall and 2-2 in the SEC following a tough non-conference schedule that saw them fall to teams from the state of Texas and the West Coast. The Tigers have been led by a balanced attack, as junior forward Kristin Stewart is tops on the squad with three goals, followed by Courtney Crandell, Leah Blayney and Ronda Brooks, who each have two.
"Auburn is the four-time defending SEC West Champion, and we know that well," Holeman said. "They did not have the greatest non-conference record this year, but the SEC is a brand new season. For the past several years the SEC West has come down to Ole Miss and Auburn and they've gotten it done. We will have to play our best against them."
The Rebel Sports Marketing department has put together a great deal for fans this weekend, as well. On Friday, the first 250 fans into the gates will receive free "Red Alert" t-shirts as part of "Make the Tide See Red" night. Then on Sunday fans are encouraged to "stuff the stands" as the first 250 fans at the game will receive a complimentary stadium cushion. Those that bring their ticket stub from Saturday's football game will receive $2 off the price of admission.