By Adam Brown
No. 15 Ole Miss soccer takes the pitch on Wednesday against the No. 6 Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament in Carry, North Carolina. First kick is set for 11 a.m. and can be streamed on NCAA.com.
“Excited about the match,” head coach Matt Mott said. “Our team is playing at a high level and excited about how our team has performed.”
Ole Miss (10-5-2, 4-4-0 SEC) has gone through the first two rounds of the tournament beating Bowling Green 4-3, in a penalty shootout and a come-from-behind 3-2 upset win over the No. 8 national seed USC in penalties.
“Bowling Green was a really tough team and got into penalties and Ashley Orkus got a safe,” Mott said. “Against USC, we went down 2-0 and were able to come back. Great performance for our group.”
Duke earned a first-round bye in the tournament and is coming off a 2-1 victory over Arizona State in double-overtime. It opened the scoring in the 29th minute as Tess Boade scored her sixth goal of the season. The Sun Devils would answer in the 86th minute to send the match into extra time. Three minutes into the second overtime period, sophomore Sophie Jones scored the game-winner for the Blue Devils, sending a cross into the bottom corner of the net.
Offensively, the Blue Devils are led by a pair of forwards in Olivia Migli and Boade, who each have six goals on the season. Senior defender Caitlin Cosme has also contributed to the offense, punching in five goals herself. Duke also moves the ball well in the attacking third. Marykate McGuire leads the team with six assists and is followed by teammates Mackenzie Pluck and Delaney Grahm with five assists each.
In goal, Ruthie Jones has started every match since sitting on the sideline in Duke’s season opener. The sophomore has only allowed 14 goals through 18 games while recording 46 saves. The Blue Devils’ backline is also rich in veteran experience, as Mia Gyau, Caitlin Cosme, Taylor Mitchell and Delaney Graham have logged a combined 245 games played over the last five years.
These two clubs are meeting for the second time ever in the history of both programs. The two Sweet 16 contenders last played on Sept. 4, 2011, in the Auburn Tournament, where the Blue Devils came out on top 1-0. Ole Miss is 4-7-4 in its tournament history. It is playing in its second-ever Sweet 16 and is looking to make its first trip to the Elite 8.