ORANGE BEACH, Ala. For the second straight year Ole Miss squared off with Kentucky in the SEC Soccer Tournament, and for the second straight year the Rebels were knocked out early with a 3-2 defeat to the Wildcats in the first round of the event, which began on Wednesday at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
In a game that featured the top two defenses in league play this season, five goals were scored, including four in the first half. The two squads tied 0-0 after two overtime periods in the regular-season matchup on Oct. 22, less than two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, Ole Miss (8-7-5) out-shot Kentucky 18-5 and produced seven corner kicks to four for the Wildcats. The Rebels had 11 shots on goal to Kentucky’s three. They were unable to win despite two goals from second team All-SEC pick Jennifer Hance.
“This is a very disappointing result for us,” said Rebel head coach Steve Holeman. “We definitely feel like we played well enough to win. We did a good job of finishing our opportunities. We showed great resilience to come back from one score down and even things up.
“Heading into this game these were two of the best defenses in the league. It was very surprising for five goals to be scored. We did well and really dominated most of the game. The statistics show that. We out-shot them 18-5. We had three defensive miscues, and they scored on all three.”
A wild first half resulted in two goals for each team, despite the Rebels out-shooting the Wildcats 11-3.
The Wildcats (12-6-3) took a 1-0 lead at the 3:27 mark with a goal from freshman Giuleana Lopez. Ole Miss junior goalkeeper Ann Shelton came out of goal to intercept a Kentucky pass. As she slid to grab the ball, Lopez controlled it and dribbled by her and shot from eight yards for the easy score.
Ole Miss answered right back with a score at the 9:21 mark to make it a 1-1 game. After a Wildcat foul, senior defender Lyndsey Williams took a free kick from just near the corner of the back line and sideline and placed it perfectly to Hance at the far post for a header from five yards out.
With the score, the sophomore collected her fifth goal of the season, while Williams, playing in most likely the final game of her Rebel career, was credited with her second assist of the year.
Hance added her sixth goal of the year to give Ole Miss a 2-1 advantage in the 28th minute. Senior forward Kelly Renie sent a cross into the box that Kentucky goalkeeper Anne Ogundele knocked away, but right to Hance, who fired a shot from 10 yards directly at Ogundele. The ball bounced off the keeper and back into the net to give Ole Miss its first lead of the contest.
Continuing the wild first half, Kentucky added a goal by Kristin Kover to tie the game at 2-2 at the 33:58 mark. Kover dribbled toward the middle of the field and fired a laser from 30 yards out into the upper right corner of the goal, just out of reach of the diving Shelton.
Kentucky scored the game-winner in the second period at the 56:37 mark. After a Rebel foul, Kelsey Fenix sent a free kick to Nicola Holdswroth, who scored on a header very reminiscent of Hance’s first score for the Rebels.
Hance nearly tied the game and notched a hat trick with just under five minutes remaining in the match. She controlled a long pass at about 25 yards from the goal, took it down with her left foot and fired with her right to the upper 90, but it was tipped up and over by Ogundele.
The Rebels continued to attack for the final five minutes, but could not net the equalizer.
The Rebel defense allowed three goals for just the third time this year and the first time against an SEC foe.
Ole Miss drops to 5-10 all-time in its 10 years of SEC Tournament play.