Soccer Preview: Commodores prepare for final match of regular season

The Commodores host the Ole Miss Rebels in their final game of the season and the teams’ first matchup since 2018.

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Vanderbilt soccer faces South Carolina at home in 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

Anita Mukherjee, Staff Writer

Last Friday, the Commodores traveled to Baton Rouge, where they defeated the LSU Tigers 2-0 and  secured their third consecutive win of the season. In the process, they moved to a 4-3-0 record, marking the team’s first winning record since the first game of the season. 

Unlike past games, where the Commodores have dominated in maintaining possession throughout the game, Vanderbilt at times looked uncomfortable with the ball on Friday. Rather than holding possession, both teams seemed to evenly distribute offensive possessions. However, during their time with the ball, the Commodores were efficient—they generated numerous chances to score, and senior forward Leila Azari scored the first goal of the game with assistance from senior forward Maddie Elwell during the 16th minute. During the 80th minute, senior forward Olivia Simmons made a shot from 22 yards outside of the box, bringing the score to 2-0. 

This Saturday, Nov. 7, marks Senior Night and the final game of this conference-only season for the Commodores, as they host  the Ole Miss Rebels in the two teams’ first matchup since 2018. The Rebels currently stand at 3-4-0 in the season after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 4-3 last week; in their past four games against the Commodores, they have walked away with two wins. 

“We haven’t played them in a while. We last played them in 2018 during an absolute monsoon in Oxford, and we were very good—that was the year we won the SEC. And they beat us on a free kick,” Coach Darren Ambrose said. “We were fantastic in the game. We were very good in everything we did. We just couldn’t find a goal.”

Commodore senior forward Haley Hopkins received the title as SEC Offensive Player of the Week during Week 6 thanks to her game-winning goal in the second half of the game, but going into the Ole Miss matchup, Rebels’ senior forward Madisyn Pezzino holds the title as the Week 7 SEC Offensive Player of the Week

“They have good attacking players,” Ambrose said. “Channing Foster, Madisyn Pezzino and Mo O’Connor. They’ve got three kids, all of whom are dangerous.”

Some of Mississippi’s greatest strengths as a team are its defensive play and set pieces, and over the course of this season, the Rebel offense has made demonstrated efforts to improve its free kicks. Pezzino, junior midfielder Haleigh Stackpole and senior forward Channing Foster have worked with Rebels assistant coach Richard Beebe, dedicating time to bettering their technique.

In order to find success on the field during their final matchup, the Commodores need to approach the game with the risk-taking mentality that Ambrose has vouched for all season long. 

“[Risk-taking] is really a choice,” Ambrose said. “I think we’ve been a little bit better at it. Some of the chances we’ve created have been through that idea. People making runs instead of not making a run because they weren’t sure they could recover. I think we’re doing that more and more. The physical part of the game in that 18-yard box has been better for us, and that has to be the case on Saturday because Ole Miss is a very physical, strong team. Frankly, if we don’t commit ourselves to those moments, we’re going to struggle to score.”

The Commodores kick off their Senior Night against the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. CST, and coverage will be provided by SECN+.