It took 64 minutes for the SEC's most potent offensive attack (17 goals) to strike, but Goal #1 in Friday's tie with the #13 Southern Cal Trojans by Rafaelle Souza couldn't have come at a better time. It marked the goal that sealed the Rebels' stalemate with a Top 25 opponent by a score of 1-1. Coming into last night, the Rebels had dropped 7 straight matches against Top 25 opponents, the last tie coming against #18 Georgia in 2010, and the last win coming against the #25 Auburn Tigers in the same year. With the tie, the Rebels move to 4-0-1 and will complete their play in the Minnesota Gold Classic with a match against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday afternoon.
Through much of the 1st half, Ole Miss was given a dose of its own medicine with a strong Trojan attack. USC outshot the Rebels 5-0, but they were held to a 0-0 tie going into halftime by 3 dazzling saves from McCormick and excellent defense by the Rebels' back line. Coming out of the locker room, Ole Miss began to make their move, but USC successfully countered a corner kick, converting it to a goal by Kayla Mills on the other end of the field in less than 2 minutes.
Just 3 minutes later, though, Souza made the Trojans pay with a powerful shot off an assist from fellow senior Mandy McCalla. McCalla was back in action after being removed from the Rebels' 2-0 shutout of the St. Louis Billikens late in the 1st half. The move, according to Ole Miss Media Relations, was a precautionary measure due to a shoulder injury. Nevertheless, McCalla racked up 102 minutes and provided the assist for the tying goal that eventually sent the match to overtime.
Souza's goal was her 4th on the year and her 26th career goal as a Rebel.
With under 5 minutes to go in regulation, Ole Miss was able to get off several shots on goal, including another rocket from Souza, but was denied by Trojan goalkeeper Caroline Stanley. A wild scramble in front of the Trojans' net in the final seconds of the game gave the Rebels a chance to seal the match, but Stanley and others were able to hold their ground.
The Trojans applied pressure all throughout the first 10-minute overtime period with 3 shots on goal, all denied by Kelly McCormick. That pressure continued into the 2nd OT with another shot from Mills, this one sailing high, and a shot from Mandy Freeman going wide left. Though Ole Miss was able to clear the pressure, they were never able to mount an effective attack of their own.
The Lady Trojans opened their season with an impressive 4-1 upending of #11 San Diego State. Their group of forwards, according to Coach Mott, is one of the best in the country. Mott was thrilled with his back line's effort all game long in stunting USC's usually explosive attack: "Our back line... I mean, those guys held probably the best forwards in the country to one goal... I'm just really pleased with the team. That's a great result to come into Minnesota and draw the #13 team." Mott added, "A draw on the road against the #13 team? I'll take that every time."
Mott's team has shown an impressive amount of mental toughness and focus this year. They'll need it when the try to improve on last year's late-season collapse in league play that ultimately kept them out of the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss will suit up once more this weekend to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday afternoon. Next weekend will be their final non-conference weekend before kicking off league play in Fayetteville, Ark. on September 20th.