Soccer Rebels stun Florida

Ole Miss continued its quest for an SEC West championship Sunday, but a 1-0 win over Florida also signaled the Rebels may just be overall SEC title contenders this season.

Ole Miss (13-3, 7-1 SEC) continued its strong play in the Southeastern Conference with its sixth straight win, this time a monumental 1-0 victory over No. 11 Florida (10-4-1, 5-2-1 SEC) in a thrilling nail-biter that was capped by an Amy Gill goal in the 87th minute at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium.

With the Ole Miss win and a Vanderbilt loss to Georgia, the Rebels are tied with Tennessee for the overall SEC lead with 7-1 league records.

The victory was the Rebels' first ever over the perennial-power Gator program in a series dating back to 1996. Ole Miss is now 1-9-1 all-time against Florida.

With the score knotted at zero for almost the entire match, Ole Miss sophomore midfielder Chrissy Strini was able to make a diagonal pass through the Florida defenders to a charging Amy Gill, who knocked the ball to the right of the keeper from about eight yards out at the 87:54 mark.

"What an unbelievable win," said Ole Miss head coach Steve Holeman. "This game has been looming over us for a while. And we made a commitment not just to get our loss back, but to get all the losses back for the last ten years. The girls played hard, and they deserved the win today."

Florida looked dominant in the first half, maintaining possession and producing chance after chance to score. They out-shot the Rebels 7-1 in the first half, but were unable to net any of the shots, including back-to-back crossbars late in the period. Ole Miss sophomore goalkeeper Ann Shelton notched two saves in the first half.

The Ole Miss offense managed just the one shot in the first half, a kick well wide by freshman Jennifer Hance.

Just like in Friday's South Carolina match, Ole Miss played much better after halftime. The Rebels were able to limit Florida's opportunities and get the ball into better scoring territory throughout the second half.

The Rebels were out-shot 6-5 in the second half, but made the only one they needed thanks to the stellar play of the shutout defense.

"We just had to stick with it," Holeman added. "It was really a game of two halves. Florida took it to us in the first half and we just made some tactical adjustments. We definitely didn't dominate the second half, but the match evened out. We stuck to our game plan, had confidence in what we were doing, remained composed and sealed the deal."

The Rebels' best scoring chance prior to the game-winning goal came in the 71st minute when senior Kelly Renie broke open on a misplayed ball by the Florida goalkeeper, but shot high.

The intensity of the battle was evident by very physical play. The teams ended up tied with 17 fouls each. There were also six yellow cards handed out, with each team being penalized three times.

Ole Miss' defense produced its 10th shutout of the season and sixth in eight SEC games. It was also the fifth time Ole Miss has won an SEC match this season by a score of 1-0. The Rebels continue to be in the top two in the SEC in almost every defensive category.

"Florida is a great team, and this game can only make you better," Holeman said. "Playing a team this talented, whether you win, lose or draw, you're only going to become better. I think we learned a lot and grew as a team today."

The Rebels will look to maintain their SEC lead when they travel to Lexington, Ky., on Friday to take on the Wildcats at 5 p.m. CT. They will host Vanderbilt and Mississippi State the next week before traveling to the SEC Tournament on Nov. 3-6 in Orange Beach, Ala.

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