A Look Around

Alabama and its fans are headed to Oxford. Ole Miss baseball wants to expand the mental edge it had last season. UM soccer takes an impressive start to the season on the road.

Maybe Nick Saban was getting his fans ready for another trip on the SEC road, this time to Oxford to face Ole Miss, when he mentioned them after Alabama's 38-20 win at Kentucky.

"There wasn't a big group of them, but there was a little bit of red up there and it was full and I know our players appreciated it. I appreciated it, and I want them to know how important they are to our team when we're playing on the road."

Saban knows the importance of the Ole Miss game. Maybe the head coach of the Crimson Tide was just coaching his fans to get to Oxford for one of the season's biggest SEC West showdowns.

Alabama fans bought all 7,000 visiting tickets for the game here Saturday, If the past is any indication, there will probably be more than that for the contest against Ole Miss.

The good news is that Ole Miss set a record for season ticket sales. So if most of those were bought by Rebel fans, which you would think, then maybe there won't be many more than 7,000 Crimson Tide fans in attendance.

Many in Oxford have pointed toward this weekend for a while, and not just the game but all that surrounds it. The city and campus have been preparing for what should be the largest influx of visitors to Oxford since the 2003 Ole Miss-LSU football game.

A Mental Edge

Ole Miss head baseball coach Mike Bianco is sending his troops into week two of fall ball. The 10th-year Rebel mentor said he's not only looking for on the field growth from his players this fall, he hopes they'll continue to play with the same enthusiasm as last year's team.

"But you never know," he said. "Last year was a unique group in that we had a lot of seniors, the most seniors we've ever had. The personality of the team was a little different and it was neat.

"As I said many times last year, it was probably the most fun I've ever had with a team, the most enjoyable team. I've had teams I thought were more physically talented than that team, but none that were better than that team as far as winning a baseball game, competing and playing. They were tremendous."

Bianco and staff continue to learn the 2009-10 team and hope there is much carryover this time around.

"Part of what you try to re-enact every year as a coach is to find the leaders and that chemistry and to get it to flourish," he said.

Bianco brought in Brian Cain, a Peak Performance Coach, last season and was pleased with the results. Cain is back on board this season.

"We wanted to bring in somebody who can help spark that, that's maybe better at it than we are, and we'll do that again this year," he said. "It's like when you have good results with a strength and conditioning program, why would you change it? You may look to improve it and keep adding on.

"One of the reasons we brought Brian in last year was because we lacked that," Bianco added. "We lacked the mental edge. Last year's group was mentally a lot stronger than other teams. I think it helped in some come-from-behind wins, and the team was really good on the road. We swept two SEC teams on the road (Auburn, Arkansas). We had, I think, the best road record in the country, and we play in the toughest conference in the country. That team was good in so many areas."

Fall baseball is scheduled to continue through the weekend of November 7.

Like Old Times Again

Another Rebel team is in the midst of recapturing some former magic. The Ole Miss women's soccer team, so successful the early part of this decade with SEC West titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, has shown major signs of being back.

Sunday's 3-2 double overtime win against seventh-ranked Florida, played in the rain in Oxford, was the latest example. Ole Miss improved to 8-3 on the season and 2-1 in SEC action. Veteran Steve Holeman, the only head coach in the program's history, said it was a memorable day for Rebel soccer.

"What an exciting win for our girls," said Holeman, in his 15th season at UM. "I'm proud of the way our girls came out here and fought. We could have beaten them in regulation and we were the better team in the second half. Florida had two good opportunities and they scored on those two chances in the second half. We had five or six very good scoring opportunities, but their keeper is phenomenal. She made some big-time saves. This certainly wasn't a game that we would have been happy with a tie."

Had a goal not been scored by either team in the second overtime, the game would have ended in a deadlock. That's the NCAA rules for soccer: two OTs and that's it.

Less than two minutes into the second overtime period, an Ole Miss player was fouled just outside the penalty box, and senior Danielle Johnson sent a free kick into the box that was headed in by sophomore Abbie Curran for the winning goal.

The Rebels hope to be able to sustain the success away from home. Their next five games are on the road. Their next home game is Sunday, October 25 when they host Vanderbilt.

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