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Soccer clinches SEC Tournament berth despite weekend losses

Ole Miss jumped out to a 1-0 lead against both LSU and Tennessee on the final home weekend of the regular season, but came up one goal short in both matches. Junior midfielder/forward Mandy McCalla added to her SEC-leading goal total with all three of the Lady Rebels’ goals this past weekend to give her 13 goals and 30 points this season.
Tyler Jackson/The Daily Mississippian

 
FRIDAY: LSU 3, OLE MISS 2 (OT)
 
The Ole Miss women’s soccer team (12-6, 5-6 SEC) took a hit in its bid for a higher seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 3-2 overtime loss to LSU (7-7-4, 3-6-2) on Friday night. It was a night of recognition as the team honored Breast Cancer Awareness Month with its annual Pink Out game. The team wore pink jerseys, and the crowd released pink balloons into the air during halftime.
 
The celebration looked to continue on the field as the Lady Rebels jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first half. Ole Miss was playing some its best soccer of the season, as it gouged the LSU defense. Junior forward/midfielder Mandy McCalla put Ole Miss on the board with a goal in the 11th minute. Junior forward Rafaelle Souza was credited with the assist with a quick pass to McCalla before she scored from the top of the box. McCalla was not finished there and found the back of the net again just 10 minutes later, and Ole Miss went into halftime with a commanding 2-0 lead.
 
When the second half began, LSU came out looking like a completely different team.
 
Just six minutes into the half, LSU cut Ole Miss’ lead in half. Sophomore midfielder Alex Arlitt was credited with an unassisted goal in the 52nd minute. Seven minutes later, the Lady Tigers tied the game at two when junior midfielder/forward Danielle Murphy scored off a cross from Arlitt.
 
“(LSU) got us on our back foot for sure,” head coach Matt Mott said. “We weren’t able to recover before they got the second one (goal). As soon as they scored the first one it fired them up for the second.” 
 
Ole Miss were in damage control the rest of half as they tried to shake off the quick scores from LSU.
 
The Rebels had some good chances late in the second half but could not convert, sending the game into overtime, Ole Miss’ first overtime game of the season.
 
The overtime period was short-lived, as LSU earned a penalty kick less than three minutes into it. Junior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman took the kick and converted the opportunity to give the Lady Tigers the golden-goal victory.
 
SUNDAY: TENNESSEE 2, OLE MISS 1
 
With its back against the wall after a crushing defeat against LSU on Friday night in overtime, the Ole Miss women’s soccer team (12-7, 5-7 SEC) was in a must-win situation against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers (13-4-2, 8-3-1 SEC). The Lady Rebels scored first for the second time this past weekend but came up short in a 2-1 loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
 
It was Senior Day for the Lady Rebels as they honored their three seniors: midfielders Alix Hildal, Meghan O’Rourke and defender Emily Sinovich in a pre-game ceremony.
 
Sunday’s matchup began just like Friday’s did: a goal from junior forward/midfielder Mandy McCalla. McCalla scored off a corner kick from junior forward Rafaelle Souza in the 8th minute of the match. It was McCalla’s 13th goal of the season, which leads the SEC.
 
Tennessee did not wait long to respond. Just three minutes later, the Lady Volunteers tied the game at one with a header of their own, courtesy senior midfielder Amy Harrison.
 
The last 35 minutes of the first half were about even with both teams having multiple opportunities, but both defenses stood tall, and the score sat even at halftime.
 
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, as both defenses bent but did not break. Ole Miss sophomore goalkeeper made several big saves to preserve the tie. Tennessee sophomore forward Hannah Wilkinson, a member of the New Zealand Olympic National Team, took a pass in the box and sent a laser past McCormick for the game-winning goal in the 80th minute.
 
“We gave the world-class player the ball on top of the box,” head coach Matt Mott said. “She should score. We didn’t step to her, and that cost us.”
 
With 10 minutes left in the match, Ole Miss managed to get pressure on Tennessee’s back line, but it was too little, too late for the Rebels.
 
Despite the two losses on the final home weekend of the schedule, Ole Miss clinched a berth in the SEC Tournament. The tournament picture will become clearer on Monday after all the games have been played this past weekend. “It was our goal to get to Orange Beach, and we’ve done that,” Mott said. “It doesn’t matter if we lost two this weekend and won two last weekend. Whatever it was, it got us there.”
 
Ole Miss will play its regular-season finale against in-state rival Mississippi State on Thursday night in Starkville with kickoff set for 7 p.m. The first round of the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., begins on Monday, Oct. 29.