Rebels Come to Town: No. 4 Alabama takes on No. 20 Ole Miss in key ranked matchup

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The next challenge in an unrelenting schedule for No. 4 Alabama soccer is yet another ranked foe. Thursday night will bring with it a tough test, the outcome of which may well determine who sits at the top of the SEC in the immediate future. 

The No. 20 Ole Miss Rebels (9-1-2, 3-1 SEC) will be the fourth ranked opponent the Crimson Tide has faced in 2022. Alabama is 3-0 in such contests, with wins over Clemson (No. 18), BYU (No. 6) and South Carolina (No. 5). 

Alabama (11-1-1, 4-0 SEC) is in the midst of its best regular-season stretch in program history, with seven straight wins and 11 straight matches without a defeat. The team is fresh off a hard-won 2-1 victory over Georgia. 

Ole Miss suffered its first loss one day after Alabama beat Georgia, falling at home 1-0 against Tennessee. The Crimson Tide knocked off the Volunteers for its second conference win on Sept. 22. 

The Rebels share a common non-conference opponent with Alabama — Southern Miss. The match was a 0-0 tie and took place on Sept. 11. Alabama beat Southern Miss 2-0 on Aug. 25. 

Alabama is coming off a rare one-week layoff, but emphasis on focus and preparation has the group ready to go. Head coach Wes Hart has continued to stress the importance of being ready for every single game. 

“We need to continue to do the little things that got us to where we are right now,” Hart said after the match against Tennessee. 

The Crimson Tide seems to be firing on all cylinders, even as accomplishments continue to roll in. From the highest ranking in program history to a new single-season assists record holder, there has been no shortage of individual and team success for Alabama. 

That record belongs to midfielder Felicia Knox, who extended it with her 12th assist of the campaign against the Bulldogs in Athens. As conference play continues, she will remain a key player and a vital piece of an experienced and dangerous attack. 

Another Crimson Tide name to watch out for is forward Riley Mattingly Parker, who has had a dominant of a return from injury. Her nine goals lead the team, and adding the goal totals of the next two highest-scoring forwards would still not equal that. 

Those two forwards have been scoring a lot, though. Ashlynn Serepca and Gianna Paul have each logged a goal in the last two matches — Paul had one in the last home showing against Texas A&M and Serepca scored the winner against Georgia. 

Each player has four goals this season. 

For Ole Miss, Marykate McGuire and Mo O’Connor are the attackers to watch. They have 11 combined goals on the year. Backing them up is senior defender Taylor Radecki, who has eight assists. 

Rebels’ goalkeeper Ashley Orkus was 2021’s SEC Goalkeeper of the Year. She has only allowed four goals this season. Alabama’s McKinley Crone has starred in seven shutouts this fall. 

“Ole Miss, they always give us a good battle,” defender and midfielder Reyna Reyes said. “If we execute [our strengths] well, I think any team would have a hard time against us.” 

“With our press, and stuff like that, bringing energy, I think we’ll be ready to go,” Knox said. 

“We play incredible. Our chemistry has been great. We’re just ready,” Paul said. 

The position battles in this match feature some of the league’s best on both sides of the ball. Alabama’s performance against ranked opponents has been inspired, and the experience playing tough teams will only bolster that. 

“Little bit different style than some of the teams we’ve faced,” Hart said. “They’re a little bit more direct, a little bit faster getting the ball forward. They’ve got a throw-in that’s extremely dangerous — little bit different challenges, but I think this group is ready for it.” 

A complete effort on offense and defense is tantamount to extending the run that has captured the attention of the college soccer scene.  

Kickoff for the match is Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]