BATON ROUGE – An important three points in the race for the Southeastern Conference championship will be on the line Friday night when the 25th-ranked LSU Tigers and 24th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels renew the SEC’s most competitive rivalry on the soccer pitch with this year’s fixture that is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
In 20 matches all-time between the two sides, the Tigers (9-3-2, 5-0-1 SEC) and Rebels (11-3-1, 4-2) have played to an even 8-8-4 mark in a series that dates back to the 1995 season.
The Tigers have returned to the national rankings at No. 25 in this week’s College Soccer Madness Top 25, while the Rebels have cracked the national rankings at No. 24 in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire Top 25 poll released Tuesday.
The Tigers are the SEC leaders at the midway point of the conference season on the strength of their school-record six-game unbeaten streak to open SEC play. They top the table with a 5-0-1 mark and 16 points for a narrow one-point lead over Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas A&M in a tie for second place with matching 5-1 marks and 15 points in league play.
The Rebels are certainly within striking distance of the top spot as they trail the Tigers by just four points in a tie for fifth place overall with defending champion Florida with a 4-2 record and 12 points on the table.
LSU is riding a seven-game unbeaten streak this season heading into Friday’s fixture with an impressive 6-0-1 record since a 1-0 shutout at Rice on Sept. 15 in their non-conference finale. The Tigers are also currently on a nine-game unbeaten streak in SEC regular-season matches with an 8-0-1 mark that dates back to a 3-2 overtime win over Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., on Oct. 19 of last season.
LSU and Ole Miss actually split their two matches a season ago as the Rebels bounced back from their regular-season defeat to take home a 1-0 victory in the first round of the 2013 SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament as All-SEC striker Rafaelle Souza scored a buzzer-beater with just 43 seconds remaining in regulation to send her side into the second round.
The Tigers will look to even their 2-3-4 mark in the series in eight previous seasons under head coach Brian Lee, while the Rebels are 1-2-1 in the series in their three seasons under head coach Matt Mott.
“We’ve seen over the years that you never really know what is going to happen when LSU and Ole Miss line up across from one another,” Lee said. “I can’t imagine that there’s a more competitive rivalry in this league, and that’s what we expect tomorrow night with two teams fighting for a valuable three points in the SEC championship race.”
The Rebels feature one of the nation’s top scoring duos this season as Souza and fellow senior Mandy McCalla set the pace with a combined 24 goals, 10 assists and 58 points on the season.
Souza is making a strong case for All-America consideration this season as she ranks in the Top 10 of the NCAA scoring charts for both goals and points in 2013. A Second-Team All-SEC selection last year, Souza is tied for No. 6 in the NCAA with 13 goals and tied for No. 3 in the NCAA with 32 points on the season as the SEC’s top scorer during her senior campaign.
McCalla, who also earned Second-Team All-SEC honors as one of the league’s top strikers a season ago, follows with 11 goals and four assists for 26 points as her team’s second-leading scorer during the 2013 season.
LSU and Ole Miss mirror one another on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field in SEC play as both teams have scored 14 goals through six league matches to tie for the No. 2 spot on the SEC’s scoring chart, while the Tigers have allowed eight goals and the Rebels have allowed nine goals to their opponents during the conference season.
Fans can “Geaux Free!” to each of LSU’s two remaining home matches during the 2013 regular season as admission is free at the LSU Soccer Stadium, compliments of The Advocate.
Fans who are unable to attend the events can also watch the Tigers in action in the Geaux Zone as live streaming video will be available at www.lsusports.net/live. In addition, supporters can receive live updates of the match against Ole Miss on Friday night by following @LSUSoccer on Twitter and Instagram or by joining the in-game commentary on LSU Soccer’s official Facebook page.
As part of Friday’s game, the Tigers will celebrate “Fitness Friday” as a pre-match fitness and wellness fair featuring a free-standing climbing wall will be open to all fans from 6-7 p.m. It will also be “Kid’s Club Night” and “Camper Reunion Night” as the team’s youngest supporters will be the special guests at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
The Tigers are excited for the return of “Friday Nights Under the Lights” as they will host a free youth clinic prior to kickoff for each Friday night match for the remainder of the 2013 season. A clinic will be held Friday for boys and girls from preschool through the eighth grade from 6-6:30 p.m. CT as those in attendance are asked to bring their own soccer ball, shin guards and water bottle.
After playing their only match of the weekend against Ole Miss on Friday night, LSU will make the trip to Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday afternoon to take on the No. 8-ranked Florida Gators in a match that is set to kick off at noon CT at James G. Pressly Stadium. Sunday’s match at Florida will feature a regionally-televised broadcast on Fox Sports Net.