ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Just when it seemed that LSU and Ole Miss would play to overtime for the second time in 11 days, Rafaelle Souza scored the game-winning goal with just 43 seconds to play in regulation to hand the Rebels a 1-0 victory in Monday's opening round of the 2012 SEC Women's Soccer Tournament.
The Rebels capitalized on a counter attack in the 90th minute when Souza ran onto a pass from Jessica Hiskey in the midfield and fired a strike from the top of the penalty area inside the right post to give the No. 9 seed a berth in the quarterfinal round to face the No. 1-seeded Florida Gators on Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m. CT.
Souza netted her team-leading 13th goal of the season on the same day that she was honored as a Second-Team All-SEC striker for her performance this fall.
"Ole Miss is a good team that passes the ball and Matt Mott is a good coach," said LSU head coach Brian Lee. "Really, for the run of it, I thought it was one of our better efforts of the season, particularly in the second half. This was a game of runs and momentum. We'd have 20 minutes and they'd have 20 minutes.
"At the end, it really came down to we had a chance to score and we didn't hit it right, and they sprung out on the other end and finished a good one."
Junior Alex Ramsey provided the Tigers with perhaps their best opportunity to score in the final minute of the match when freshman Jade Kovacevic played a ball into the box from near the right sideline. Ramsey shielded an Ole Miss defender and fired a strike from eight yards that forced a reaction save from Rebel goalkeeper Kelly McCormick.
McCormick immediately put the ball back in play as the Rebels went on the counter attack. Souza scored the game-winner just seconds later as Ole Miss took the 1-0 victory.
Junior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman was strong in leading the LSU defense once again as she saved six shots by the Rebels on the night as the Tigers were just 43 seconds from playing their 10th overtime match of the 2012 season. Kinneman now ranks No. 2 on LSU's all-time single-season list with 117 saves on the campaign.
The Tigers (9-8-4) suffered their first defeat to the Rebels (13-8) in four years as they saw their five-game unbeaten streak in the series snapped on Souza's heroics in the final minute. LSU's run of three-straight wins entering the postseason was also snapped as they fell for the first time since a 3-2 setback at Tennessee on Oct. 14.
It marked LSU's first defeat to its SEC West rival since a 1-0 shutout in Oxford during the 2008 regular season.
"I've been in the SEC for eight years, and every year it gets better and better," Lee said. "It's only getting better in the future. The recruiting of all the SEC schools is headed in the right direction and it will only be so long before we're filling the Top 10. This is going to be a tremendous tournament here this week."