By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – When Georgia Russell graduated high school early to get a fast start on her college soccer career, she didn’t know she’d wait an extra year for her debut game.
Finally it arrives for the former Tupelo High School standout, as Ole Miss opens its season tonight at 7 against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Russell had an idea something wasn’t quite right in her knee before preseason practice began in 2012. That belief was confirmed just days into camp when the knee gave out.
“Right when it happened I knew something was wrong. I broke down a started crying.”
The tears subsided, and the pain of rehab began. Complications after surgery stretched the recovery time, and Russell was away from the game that has been so good to her for roughly eight months.
She attended practices and home games and supported teammates who in turn helped her through what turned out to be a redshirt season.
Russell was highly successful at Tupelo. She started every game in her high school career and helped the Golden Wave to a 64-14-4 record. She was twice team MVP, the Daily Journal’s all-area player of the year and all-state as a senior.
shake off the rust
When she played in a handful of off-season games in the spring Russell, who had never sustained a serious injury, realized how long she’d been out.
“I got some minutes in one game, then I got more minutes and the Auburn game I played basically the whole time. I was exhausted after that game. I was dead,” she recalled.
Getting in shape this camp has been a challenge as well, but Russell has gotten back and feels confident heading into the season.
So do the Rebels.
Ole Miss returns the SEC’s top two scorers from 2012 in Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza, who helped the Rebels go 13-9 and reach the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament. Both were named All-SEC.
In the 2012 preseason Russell was in line for playing time and possibly a starting role depending on how things played out.
Then the knee happened.
Now healthy and focused she’s ready to begin a journey she thought would be a year along at this point.
“I’m excited for our first game, all our fans coming out and watching my teammates and I,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll get a few minutes in each half, and hopefully we’ll get our first win of the season.”
Mississippi State opens its season tonight at South Alabama. It’s the debut of head coach Aaron Gordon.
The Bulldogs will be looking to extend a 12-match non-conference unbeaten streak dating back to 2011.
MSU plays Arkansas State at home on Sunday at 1 p.m.