Ole Miss athletics are underway this fall after a tumultuous few months that cast doubt over any semblance of a season. Things look different, but football, soccer and cross country have begun while others are not far behind.
Ole Miss soccer began the year on September 19 against Texas A&M. After holding a scoreless first half, the Rebels conceded three goals in a loss to the Aggies.
The visitors committed more than three times the number of fouls, but took four times the amount of corner kicks in the win. Ole Miss hit the frame twice in the match, but couldn’t quite find the net. It wasn’t the result they wanted, but the Rebels weren’t inferior despite the score. They also looked sweet in the new kits.
Eight days later, Ole Miss recorded its first win of the season over LSU on Sunday. The Rebels out shot the Tigers 13-12 in the match and Ashley Orkus locked down in goal, stopping all four shots on frame. It was also scoreless through the first half before Saydie Holland knocked in a header in the 58th minute to give her team its first win of the season.
The red kits are also fresh.
The Rebels are running, literally. Both men’s and women’s cross country opened the year on Sept. 19 by finishing runners-up at LSU’s SEC Preview. Junior Mario Garcia Romo, a two-time NCAA All-South Region honoree, led the Rebels in a fierce competition with Arkansas by winning the 6K race to begin the day by two seconds at 17:23.3 and was one of three Ole Miss runners in the top-10 and one of two in the top-5. He was also named the SEC Men’s Co-Runner of the Week.
On the women’s side, Anna Elkin finished sixth in the 5K at 17:20.7. She was one of six runners to finish in the top-15. The course will be the same for the SEC Championship and the Rebels will hope to improve their result when they return.
“It was really nice to get back in the competitive arena this weekend,” said associate head coach Ryan Vanhoy. “We got a chance to see where we are as a team and (...) look forward to continuing to build over the next six weeks and returning here on October 30.”
Cross Country will head to Louisville for the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday.
Volleyball (yet to begin)
Under the leadership of first-year head coach and Olympic medalist libero Kayla Banwarth, Ole Miss will play four Southeastern Conference teams twice during the condensed and unusual 2020 schedule. The season will begin on October 22nd at home against Texas A&M, and the Rebels will also host Missouri and travel to Arkansas and LSU.
With just under a month left before the opener, Banwarth and her talented staff continue to work toward a new vision and evaluate their options on the court.
”We have so many new faces that are really talented. No one’s really earned a starting spot and I don’t have a starting lineup yet,” Banwarth said. “We’re trying to learn and compete every day and we’ll worry about starting line-ups once October hits.”
The biggest thing that is seeing an overhaul is the offensive tempo, which is is different than what was previously utilized. Getting a feel for the new style of play, executing the reads, and refining technique on the block have been the focus of the preseason practices. Banwarth took over in January and has had very little time to work with her team in comparison to a normal year. It may be a concise schedule, but the Rebels are ready to show their potential.
Golf (yet to begin)
Men’s and women’s golf will open with a 54-hole stroke-play tournament at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational in Fayetteville on Oct. 5. Both teams have some promising upperclassmen, but the main stars are All-American Julia Johnson and All-SEC selection Kennedy Swann, who will anchor the women’s squad.
The men will compete in the Legends Collegiate Invitational hosted by Vanderbilt on Oct. 25 and the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate hosted by Alabama on Nov. 9, while the women play in the Ally Cup hosted by Mississippi State and the East Lake Cup in Atlanta.
Tennis (yet to begin)
Both the men’s and women’s team return a lot of experience for 2020.
For the women, the season begins with the Vanderbilt Fall Invite on Oct. 9, continues on to Starkville the following weekend and then concludes with the Alabama Fall Invite on Oct. 23. Redshirt seniors Alexa Bortles, Tereza Janatova and Anna Vrbenska will lead the charge alongside redshirt junior Sabina Machalova and sophomores Grace Anne Jones, Tiphanie Fiquet and Kelsey Mize.
The men welcome back All-Americans Tim Sandkaulen and Finn Reynolds, as well as Cotter Wilson, Jan Soren Hain, Simon Junk and sophomores Lukas Engelhardt and Nikola Slavic, who was named the ITA Southern Region Rookie of the Year. Ole Miss also adds Oklahoma State transfer Brady Draheim. 2020 will begin in Auburn on Friday, and then the season continues with the Mississippi State Fall Invitational on Oct. 23 and finish up with the Georgia Invitational in early November.
Rifle (yet to begin)
Coming off of a record-breaking year, Ole Miss Rifle is ready to continue the dominance in 2020. Returning senior Abby Buesseler earned a trio of All-American nods in 2019 and set school records in smallbore and aggregate average. The Rebels fired seven of the top aggregate scores in program history and spent the entire regular season in the Top 10, but fell just short of qualifying for the NCAA Rifle Championship.
In addition to most of its talent returning, Ole Miss added incoming freshman Lea Horvath from Komarom, Hungary. She is a Hungarian national record holder and ranked No. 28 in the latest International Shooting Sport Federation rankings. During the 2019 season, Horvath finished in the Top-12 in four separate World Cups. She adds another talent boost to an already strong shooting team.
The Rebels will face 11 competitions in 2020, beginning on Oct. 11 against UT Martin and ending by hosting Navy on Feb. 13, 2021. They could very well be the best fall/winter sports team to play this season. Don’t sleep on them.