Soccer Team Continues Homestand with South Carolina, No. 6 Florida

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Courtney Biddle and the Rebs need one win over their final three to clinch an SEC Tournament berth.
Courtney Biddle and the Rebs need one win over their final three to clinch an SEC Tournament berth.

Oct. 23, 2003

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OXFORD, Miss. - Only three more regular-season matches remain for the Ole Miss soccer team, which continues its SEC homestand this weekend with South Carolina and No. 6 Florida. Friday's faceoff with the Gamecocks is set for 7 p.m. CT, while Sunday's match against the Gators is at 1 p.m.

Ole Miss (13-3, 4-2 SEC) needs one victory in its final few to secure the program's seventh straight SEC Tournament berth, a feat accomplished by no other Western Division team. The Rebels, who wrap up the regular season against Mississippi State on Halloween night, currently share the SEC West lead with Auburn, which owns the tie breaker after knocking off Ole Miss, 2-1, Sunday.

Despite a weekend split last time out, Ole Miss still boasts its highest win percentage (0.813) and is one victory shy of matching its all-time season high of 14 in all games and five in SEC games. The Rebels lead the conference in overall wins and winning percentage in addition to virtually every offensive and defensive category, including shots, goals, assists, points, fewest goals allowed, goals-against average and shutouts.

"We've worked hard all season for the opportunity ahead of us," said Ole Miss head coach Steve Holeman. "We've done as well as we've ever done up to this point, and we're on track to accomplish our goals. We need to stay focused over this final stretch."

South Carolina (9-6-2, 2-3-1 SEC) can nail down an SEC Tournament berth by winning its final three matches or with some help from other teams. Despite handing Kentucky its first conference loss last Sunday, the Gamecocks sit fifth in the Eastern Division and seventh in the overall race.

Freshman midfielder Shelly Hoddeson has netted a team-high five goals for Carolina, which has dropped all six of its 2003 losses by a one-goal deficit.

USC has taken three of four previous meetings against Ole Miss, although the Rebels picked up a 3-1 win in the last meeting in Oxford in 2000.

Like Ole Miss, Florida (12-2-1, 4-1-1 SEC) is one victory away from clinching a tourney spot in Orange Beach, Ala., Nov. 6-9. After a 10-10-2 effort and seeing their streak of six straight SEC titles end a year ago, the Gators have returned to form this season, rising as high as second in the national rankings and posting a 3-0 mark against top-25 foes.

Ashley Kellgren tallied a goal and an assist in last Sunday's 3-1 triumph over Vanderbilt, and the junior forward currently tops the squad in goals with seven, with four coming in league play. Florida boasts five players with five of more goals, including junior midfielder Stephanie Freeman's six goals and four game-winners.

With a 6-0 all-time edge, Florida is the only SEC foe the Rebels have yet to defeat. Among the Gator victories is a 3-0 win in the championship game of the 1999 SEC Tournament in Nashville.

At No. 6, Florida is the highest ranked opponent to ever play in Oxford. Ole Miss is 1-1 against top-25 opposition this year, holding off No. 25 Missouri and falling to No. 17 Auburn. The Rebels also defeated Tennessee, who has since climbed to 15th in the national polls and shut out the Gators, 2-0, on Oct. 10.

In addition, Ole Miss is two wins away from reaching its 100th victory as a program.

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