By Dylan Edwards
The Ole Miss soccer record books looked much different before Kelly McCormick arrived in Oxford. With several matches of her final season still to be played, the senior goalkeeper is at the top in nearly every goalkeeper category, including wins, shutouts and saves.
“Kelly tied the school records for shutouts (in the last match against Alabama),” Ole Miss head coach Matt Mott said. “I believe that’s the last record she does not hold. One more shutout in her senior year, and she’ll have it. I’m really happy with our team.”
The 2013 season tied the most successful year in Ole Miss soccer history, with the team hosting an NCAA Tournament match and advancing deeper in the tournament than ever before. Even with the success, both herself individually and the team, McCormick was not complacent for her senior year.
“Since this is my senior year, I wanted to do the best I can possibly do,” McCormick said. “I sacrificed my summer and came here to focus on every aspect of being the best goalkeeper I can be. I had a goalkeeper trainer come in and train me for a couple weeks to work on skills and different situations of shots just so when preseason started I was going to be ready to go.”
While also perfecting her craft as a goalkeeper, McCormick spent time practicing other skills more non-traditional with a goalkeeper: penalty kicks. In just the second match of the season against Iowa State, McCormick was called upon to take a penalty kick. She scored the lone goal of the match while leading the shutout.
“I knew that I can be a great shot-stopper and goalkeeper and dependable in the back, but I wanted to also be an asset to the team by practicing my PKs,” McCormick said. “When I was called up to take a PK, I was willing to do it because I prepared for it.”
McCormick is the lone-senior for the Rebels. Of the six other signings in her class, she is the only player still remaining.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a little lonely and sad just because the freshman, sophomore and junior class take pictures and do team bonding events with their class,” McCormick said. “I see how close everyone else is with theirs and obviously I’m the only one in mine. The junior class has adopted me and let me into their class though. For the most part, it’s not as bad as it seems.”
In her time at Ole Miss, the program has grown and improved under the leadership of head coach Matt Mott – a noticeable difference for the senior.
“We’ve grown as a team,” McCormick said. “My freshman year coming in, there wasn’t the right attitude on the team. People didn’t want to work as hard or have the right mentality. We’ve been able to improve so much. The cohesiveness of this team is a lot better than it was my freshman year.”
From Laguna Niguel, California, McCormick did not exactly stay local with her college choice. While she had family members attend Ole Miss, the goalkeeper fell in love with Ole Miss and Oxford on her own.
“When I was younger, I went to soccer camps here,” McCormick said. “I was in middle school and fell in love with the campus. I love the community and the atmosphere. I knew it was the perfect place for me. It was kind of like a second home, having family here … It wasn’t a huge transition. I absolutely love it here in Oxford.”
When McCormick was younger, she played both in the field and in goal. The move to exclusively play in goal and anchor the defense at Ole Miss has played a large part in the Rebels’ success. It has also led to the rewriting of record books.
“Originally Coach Holeman before Coach Mott was here, they both wanted me to be a goalkeeper,” McCormick said. “I wanted to be the best I could be. I wanted to start and play from my freshman year, but my ultimate goal was to be the best goalkeeper I could be. If that came with breaking records, that’s awesome. If it didn’t, that’s fine too. I’ve been really fortunate.”
The position of goalkeeper was appealing to the senior for the mental challenge as well as the physical one. It’s a unique position, more than just the ability to use hands. The shape and success in large part of the backline is contingent on the skill of the goalkeeper to organize.
“It’s very challenging for me mentally because I always have to be ready,” McCormick said. “A new play of action can happen, so I have to always be on my toes ready to go. I have to communicate with my defenders effectively and tell them where to be to prevent through balls and shots from happening. I get to yell a little bit; that’s always fun.”
As the season progresses, McCormick realizes that her time on the pitch is growing limited. She has worked to make it the most successful conclusion as possible to a great career.
“I keep telling myself, ‘This is your last time. This is your last practice that you’ll ever have here. This is your last game that you’ll have at this time.’ It’s just about the little things to make sure this season is going to be the best and go out with a bang.”