With 16 players returning from last season’s NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, the Rebels are ready to run it back. As No. 23 Ole Miss soccer prepares to kick off its season in less than a week, OleMissSports.com wraps up its position preview series with a closer look at the Rebel forwards.
With 100 percent of last season’s offense returning, the Rebel Strike Force is as dangerous as ever. Captain Madisyn Pezzino is back for a fifth season in Oxford, hoping to build on the momentum from last season’s tournament run. The Grand Island, New York, native appeared in all 18 matches with one start during the 2020 campaign. Pezzino punched in three goals last season, two of which came against Georgia in the fall, earning her SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Mo O’Connor, the Oxford native, also has high expectations for 2021. The junior striker played in all 18 matches a year ago, starting the final 14 straight. O’Connor scored four goals last season, three of which were game-winners, and recorded three assists. She also converted the winning penalty in both NCAA Tournament shootout wins in the Rebels’ magical run.
Sophomore Ramsey Davis looks to follow up her impressive freshman campaign with another strong season. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native appeared in all 18 matches, scoring four times, tied for second-most on the team. One of her biggest shots of the season came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 8 national seed USC. Davis scored the equalizer to help Ole Miss fight back from a two-goal deficit and advance to the Sweet 16 after a penalty shootout.
After suffering a season-ending injury four matches into the season in 2020, Lonnie Mulligan is back and eager to see the pitch. The senior from Hattiesburg tallied one goal and an assist back in 2019. Mulligan looks to factor into the lineup and contribute to the loaded Rebel offense.
Transfer Stella Downing will also vie for playing time at forward. The sophomore spent one season at Memphis and appeared in all 12 matches for the Tigers. A former member of the U17 Canadian National Team, Downing tallied two assists a season ago and put four of her five shots on goal.
Freshmen Amber Fortenberry, Maddie Bishop and Whitaker Buchanan round out the scoring threats available for the Rebels. Fortenberry, a Mississippi native, was a four-year letterwinner at Forrest County Agricultural High School. She earned offensive player of the year honors in 2019 and was the FCAHS MVP in 2020. Bishop, who joins Ole Miss from Germantown, Tennessee, has a knack for scoring. The four-year letterwinner and two-time all-state honoree at St. George’s Independent School found the back of the net 71 times in her high school career and tacked on 19 assists. Rounding out the group is Buchanan, another offensive weapon, who hails from Bowling Green, Kentucky. In just two varsity seasons, she bagged 77 goals and added 17 assists, including setting the single-season scoring record at Bowling Green High School with 43 goals in 2018.
Fans will have their first chance to see the Strike Force in action Thursday, August 19, when Ole Miss takes on ETSU at 6 p.m. CT in Oxford. The Rebels season opener will also be broadcast on SEC Network+.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports