OXFORD, Miss. South Carolina scored three first-half goals to put Ole Miss in a big hole early and the Rebels (6-5-3, 3-2-1 SEC) could not mount enough of a comeback in a 3-1 loss to the Gamecocks (10-4-1, 2-3-1 SEC) on Sunday afternoon at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium.
After entering the weekend with a share of first place in the overall Southeastern Conference standings, Ole Miss dropped just its fourth and fifth league games in the last three years with the losses to Florida and South Carolina.
Darcel Mollon, who entered the match tied for second in the SEC with seven goals, scored twice for the Gamecocks, who put a dent in the scoreboard just four-and-a-half minutes into the match with a Mollon shot at the 4:31 mark before adding a second score just 33 seconds later when Kim Miller netted her first goal of the season.
After being out-shot 9-3 and out-scored 3-0 in the first half, the Rebels, who were without starting forward Hannah Weatherly as she attended her grandmother's funeral, came out with a more aggressive attack in the second period and out-shot South Carolina 4-3 while benefiting from senior Chrissy Strini’s fourth goal of the season.
"It was a game of two halves and South Carolina is a great team,” Rebel head coach Steve Holeman said. “We dug ourselves a hole in the first five minutes of the game, and we spotted a good team like South Carolina two goals early on. It’s extremely difficult to get out of that. I felt that we came out in the second half and we played extremely well, but to win games in the SEC you have to play 90 minutes, and I credit South Carolina. They came after us in the first half. Darcel was dangerous.”
Strini netted her goal at the 62:55 mark when she fired a corner kick to the upper corner of the far side of the net. SC goalkeeper Lindsay Thorstenson knocked the ball up, and it hit the crossbar and bounced in to cut the Gamecock lead to two.
Rebel starting goalkeeper Megan Vickery, who entered the contest ranked first in the league in goals-against average, allowed all three first-half goals as the SC attack continued to get by the Rebel defenders. Senior Ann Shelton played the second half and made two saves and did not allow a goal. Ole Miss allowed three goals for the first time this year.
Struggling on defense wasn’t the only rare occurrence in Sunday’s match, though, as the game saw an unusually high 36 total fouls and seven yellow cards. The Gamecocks were whistled for 21 fouls and the Rebels’ 15, while South Carolina received four cards and Ole Miss three. Mollon and Rebel junior Jennifer Hance received two yellow cards apiece, and each team had to play the final five minutes with 10 players.
On the play in which Mollon received her first yellow, she and senior Amy Gill collided at midfield. Gill was carried off the field after several minutes with a knee injury.
“She’s going to be day to day,” Holeman said. “The doctors don’t think it was an ACL, which is the good news.”
Ole Miss will take to the road for two more games against SEC East foes this coming weekend when the Rebels visit Tennessee on Friday and Georgia on Sunday. Both teams currently rank top 25 in the nation.