Captain's BlogEvery Monday during the 2008 women's soccer season, one of the three team captains will visit GamecocksOnline.com to give an inside look into what it is like to be a South Carolina women's soccer student-athlete. Look below and check back frequently for the stories told by senior Danila Monteiro and juniors Blakely Mattern and Kim Miller.
November 17, 2008 - Blakely Mattern
Coming off the loss to Georgia last week in the SEC tournament, the team took some days off to recuperate and rethink about the season and everything we had been through and worked for. Unfortunately, because of the loss, we did not secure a spot in the postseason, and we now were in a waiting game. We would have to wait until Monday night for the NCAA committee to release the brackets for the tournament.
Going into Monday night, I have to be honest; I didn't think we had a great chance of getting selected. I knew our team deserved it. We had worked so hard all season and offseason to get to the NCAA tournament. We played well all year and had some really good wins both in conference and non-conference. However, the committee was not as nice to us two years ago when we had the same record, so I was having my doubts about whether they would take us this year.
We had a short practice on Monday, where we all got together in the afternoon to kick around, play and have some fun to try to get our mind off of what was going to happen that night. We decided as a team to meet all together at Miller's house to watch the show, thinking it would bring us luck. As I was driving over, all I was thinking about was I hope my gut feeling was wrong.
The show was scheduled to air from 8 to 8:30 pm, but the brackets could be released anytime during the half hour. We all gathered around the television waiting, and we kept waiting and waiting until finally around 8:25. We saw the College Cup symbol come on the screen and we knew this was the moment of truth. After the first two regions were revealed and our name had yet to be called, they went to a commercial break and I sat in the back of the room with my head in my hands. With teams such as Auburn, Marquette, and Boston University having already popped up, I thought our chances were all but dead.
But then everything changed when I saw South Carolina. I jumped out of my chair so fast, I'm not gonna lie, I got a little dizzy. But everyone else was going crazy too so it was okay. We all screamed so loud I think we woke up everyone in the neighborhood. Then we all got out our cell phones and called our parents and friends to share the good news.
After I calmed myself down and caught my breath, I breathed a big sigh of relief. This was something our team really deserved. We are one of the best teams in the country, I truly believe that, and it would be a real shame if we didn't get the opportunity to prove that.
Now that we had the chance to play another day and show the country just how good a team we really are, we would have to prepare this week and work extra hard to get back on track. We practiced both Tuesday and Wednesday, working on keeping the ball under pressure and just playing our game. At this point, we did not care who the opposition was, but just that we were playing another game in the season and trying to improve everyday and do everything we can to go deep in the tournament.
On Thursday we headed out of Columbia for Durham, North Carolina. Duke University would host these first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. I personally have never been to Duke, so I was extra excited to see a new place.
We went straight to the field to have a short practice, getting some touches on the ball and working on some finishing. It was nice to get out of the bus, see the stadium, and run around for a while.
Friday was here, the day all of us had dreamed about forever and worked so hard for since the end of last season. After getting a taste of the NCAA tournament last year and coming up short of advancing to the second round by a couple PKs, as a team we worked so hard on the field to get back to this point. We knew coming in that we had a chance tonight to make history for our program with the first ever NCAA tournament win. All that being said, being excited and ready to go does not begin to describe what we were feeling at game-time.
Emotions were extremely high the first 10 minutes or so of the game. Both teams were running all over, trying to get some sort of rhythm established. After that, the game settled in and was pretty even throughout the first half. We gave up a set piece goal first, which is disappointing considering we knew that set pieces and corners were William & Mary's best opportunities to score. However, our team would respond, as we did all year, with a goal before halftime. I headed a ball off their throw-in straight to Mills towards the corner of the 18-yard box. She then made a great turn and passed a beautiful ball through two defenders right to Brooke, who took one touch and buried the ball into the far side net. It was a great ball by Mils and a great shot by Brooke.
Going into halftime, we felt like we had the momentum and could come out strong and take this game in the second half. We thought we did just that when Dani scored about half way through. She took a great pass from Kayla and finished to the far post. It was an awesome goal, especially since she did not have the best angle to score. But she stepped up for us, like she has always done, and put away her chance.
Unfortunately, the game turned after our goal. The referee started to tighten up the game and began calling a lot more fouls, most of them on us. Our team knew that we did not want to give the other team set piece chances, as I said earlier, from inside half field because they had one player who could serve the ball 60 yards into our box. Some of the fouls called were questionable, including one that cost us the lead. Most of us believed the second goal to be a handball in the box by one of their forwards. Either way, we did not get the call and should have been tighter on defense. After the second goal was scored with little time remaining, we went into overtime.
I guess after we were unfortunate on the previous call, it would not be our night. Only a couple minutes into the period they scored on a header to end the game. We fought so hard and left everything we had out on the field. It is disappointing that we did not get the result, knowing that we had the lead, but I could not have asked anymore of my teammates.
I will tell you though the same thing I told the girls after the game. Other than our lone senior Dani, whose leadership, skill, and love of the game will be VERY much missed, next year everybody else would be returning. I told the team to remember this feeling and how much it hurt because we are a very good team and will return to the NCAA tournament next year where things will be different. We will gain nothing but experience from what happened and build on it for next year.
I know my team and I know how much they want to succeed and show the country how good we are. We will work this spring and all next summer to prepare for next season, where we will return and get our NCAA tournament win. I believe that and I know all my teammates would agree.
I am so proud of the team and what we have accomplished this season. From day one the desire and dedication has been there, at every practice, workout, and game. The attitude and chemistry surrounding this group of girls is outstanding and one that I would not trade for the world. I know good things are going to come both next year and in the future for this program.
I want to say one last thank you to my teammates and coaches for a great, memorable year. I love you guys! Also to everyone else involved in Carolina soccer, without you none of this would be possible. And last but not least, to the fans! You guys are awesome and make playing here at Carolina so special. Thank you for all your support. I hope to see everyone out at the graveyard next season as we look to bring home the program's first SEC Championship!!!!
November 10, 2008 - Kim Miller
This week we were getting ready for the SEC's. Monday's practice was a time for our team to come together and work on the things we needed to in preparation for Georgia. Tuesday we practiced as well but after practice we showered and loaded the bus up to get on our way to the airport. It was nice this time flying because we got a charter flight which meant no security lines, no waiting for the time to board, and no delays. The flight was about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and as we exited off the plane our vans were lined up right there for us ready to go! It was really nice, kind of like we were celebrities or something. After getting to the hotels and checking in and of course getting our roommates, it was down to the beach we went! It was the freshman's first time being in Orange Beach and you could tell that everyone was so excited to be there. That night we went to Longhorns Steakhouse for dinner; following that we went to the fields even though when we got there it was pitch black out.
It was weird waking up on Wednesday knowing that today was game day! There was nothing like having breakfast on the porch overlooking the ocean. After breakfast we went to the fields to jog and play a little and we also got a chance to watch the Ole Miss vs. LSU game. After that we left and went to lunch at some place called "Pepper Deli" (Sweet Peppers). Then back to the hotel to get some rest before the big game.
It was game time! We were ready for it and definitely pumped, but when it was our time to grab the win, we just couldn't pull through. UGA scored two goals in the first half. The second half we were the better team, we defended better, we attacked better and we were definitely the team who wanted to win more. Yet we just could not just put it away. That night people went off with families and then met back at the hotel later that night.
Waking up on Thursday was just dreadful. Knowing that we had to go home instead of staying in Orange Beach just killed everyone. Kacie Brewer, Dani Monteiro, Maria Petroni, Blakely Mattern and myself went in the water before leaving, it was a bit cold but was definitely worth it. The team packed up everything, got Quizno's for lunch and headed to the airport. We arrived in Columbia around 4pm and everyone went home.
Some of us got together on Friday to play some pickup and to go for a run since we still were not sure about NCAA's and wanted to make sure we kept our fitness levels. Saturday was the Gamecocks' last home football game so a bunch of the girls got together to go and hangout which was really fun considering we are never home to do that. Regretting losing to UGA on Wednesday, we could have been the team playing in the final game on Sunday.
I want to say thank you to all of the parents and families and fans that come out and support us. We really appreciate everything you do. Please watch Monday night for the showing of what teams will be making into the 2008 College Cup into the NCAA tournament.
November 3, 2008 - Dani Monteiro
I would like to start this blog saying thank you very much for our Gamecock fans for supporting us for the entire 2008 season. We appreciate your passion and attention for our team. I also want to say thank you for Shelley, Jamie and Mat for recruiting me last year, I could not spend any other days of my life in a better place, where I learned so much through my carreer and of course to my teammates that support me with my injuries and will help me get the SEC's tittle this week when we travel to Orange Beach, AL.
Before the game against Florida the girls surprised me decorating the entire locker room, Girls that was a mass!!! I was so happy to see that they did all that for me, because was my senior night and being the lone senior is being a tremendous experience. Plus the team was ready to go and defend our field and a streak to don't lose at home specially against Florida. Florida is a very good team that is showing in the competition that they are the team to beat, but we were ready to show in the National television that South Carolina is the New SEC's Champions.
Coaches honored me before the kick off. I was holding myself because I was about to cry soo much, plus I had two of the most important people walking with me. They gave me flowers and frame with one of my favorite picture, myself and cocky. My boyfriend Paul and my best friend Ashley Kirk. I could not choose anyone else that could replace my mom besides them. Thank you very much Kirk and Paul for walking me in my lone senior night. I appreciated! Also thank you for my coaches for helping me battle against injuries, off the field to be more mature and on the field to be a leader.
Yeah the game started and I was super excited about it. Just the fact that could not play last year because of my ACL tear against Florida, gave to me more energy and enthusiasm to play against them. We started very well showing to Florida that wouldn't be easy to beat us at home. Our team came out strong and ready to battle until the end of the game. We had so many chances in the game that everyone knew that we could win that game. They scored in the second half from a small break down in our team. We know that against top teams in the country the difference is that if they have a small or
just one chance to score they can finish, and that is exactly what happened. We battled all the way thought the end. We never gave up. To prove this we actually had two corners and other more chances, right at the end of the game. Ok we lost, but we learned from our mistakes and we get better. We are much a strong and determined team this year to go to the tournament and bring back home the SEC title. We will take from anybody, anywhere and at anytime. Our team is one confident, smart, experienced, unique, fast and determined to battle against any other team and win this week the Championship!!!
Girls here we go!!! Will be hard and will take everyone of us working together, battle every single minute in every game that we play to bring back home our dream and the whole year work to win the SEC's, proving to everyone and to ourselves that with hard work and determination anything is possible.
We are starting against Georgia, the bulldogs on Wednesday @ 8:30pm and the only thing that will satisfy out team is the victory. Yeahhhhhhh girls lets get them and bring back home that SEC Championship. Believe girls because our dreams can come true as long as we work together, never give up, put our hearts in every challenge and have faith ion each other. Gooooooooooooooo Gamecocks!
October 27, 2008 - Blakely Mattern
This week would prove to be a huge turning point for us as a team. Coming off two heart-breaking losses last weekend, we would have to bounce back quickly with only three games remaining in the regular season. It was crucial that we didn't drop off and turn two losses into more. When you lose two games in a weekend it is always hard to stay confident in our play and each other, but I know this team and our chemistry and strength in one another and I am sure we will turn around and be better in the remaining games.
I don't think many of us slept very well those two nights after our Sunday game, including coaches. But when we got to practice on Tuesday afternoon, they had a bonding activity prepared that helped us forget everything that happened. I'll just say that the past two games and everything about them went up in smoke and left our minds forever.
We all felt so much better after that and I thought coaches were awesome to think of something like that. Afterwards, practice went a lot better and we came out strong knowing that we had to find a way to get better and prepare ourselves mentally for our next game.
This week was a little different since we only had two days of practice to get ready for LSU, who we would play Thursday night instead Friday. We used those two days to the fullest though and were ready to go when game-day rolled around.
This game was a huge opportunity for our team to not only improve our spot in the conference but also beat a ranked opponent, helping us in regard to NCAA tournament implications. No matter which way you sliced it, this was a HUGE game and everyone on the team knew that and showed up with a focused attitude and ready to battle.
We came out strong from the beginning. We knew defensively we would have to be perfect, as LSU was one of the top offensive teams in the country and capable of scoring goals in buckets. It was a complete team effort defensively and we did the job, limiting them to under five shots total. We also created good scoring chances by putting the ball in dangerous areas and running hard to the goal.
Unfortunately after 90 minutes and two periods of overtime, we couldn't find the back of the net and came out with a 0-0 tie. We were disappointed that we didn't come out with a victory after having played so well. We fought hard and outplayed them all over the field. However, we did get our confidence back and played probably the best we have played since conference season started. Our team would take that momentum into our next game of the weekend against Arkansas.
On Friday we met for a short practice in the afternoon to run around for a little bit before we would meet later that evening to leave for Charlotte. Going on the road to play is always hard. The travel alone can wear you down without even playing a game. The trip to Arkansas is definitely the hardest one of the year. On Saturday morning we got a wake up call at 4:45 in the morning and left for the airport at 5:15 in order to catch our 7 a.m. flight. Personally, I believe no person should ever see that time of day, and I know all the girls would probably back me up on that one. It was definitely a quiet ride to the airport.
We arrived in Arkansas around noon and all of us were starving. After we got on the bus, lunch was the first thing on the list. We ate at Panera Bread, which is always good, then headed to the hotel for a long nap. Everyone slept the whole afternoon, trying to catch up on sleep. We had a practice around six that evening and ate dinner in the hotel, so we could all get to bed early.
The game on Sunday, if it's possible, was even more important for our team than Thursday night. Coach had told us that if we won, we would be headed to Orange Beach for the SEC tournament. I think when we all heard that and knew what was at stake we got really excited. It was nice to know that it was in our control.
We came out hard from the beginning. Scoring first is always awesome and helps the team settle in and play more confidently, knowing that we have the lead. Mills scored the first two goals for us and they were both beautiful rockets into the side net on the back side. The first was off a free kick around the side of the 18 yard box and the second was curved in on a corner kick. It was awesome to see her score that way. She played amazing today in the middle for us and really pushed our team through that game.
We were all excited after the win knowing that we were going to Orange Beach. That being said, we also know that there is so much soccer left to be played. The goal all along for our team has been an SEC championship. As we look ahead, we believe that it is still absolutely possible. All of us know how good we are and what we are capable of if we continue to play to our potential. I know that we will work hard this week in preparation for Florida on Thursday night. That game is another opportunity for us to knock off a ranked opponent at home. We will also practice hard knowing that next week we have the conference tournament and a chance to win a championship.
I hope to see everyone Thursday night as we take on the gators in the Graveyard. If you can't make it to the game, be sure to turn to the Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m. to watch us, as we play our last regular season game of the year.
October 20, 2008 - Kim Miller
Coming off two wins last weekend was great for us, but we knew that we would have to prepare for the upcoming weekend against Alabama and Auburn. Tuesday's practice we focused on services, finishes and where to place the ball when there was space available. Wednesdays are days where we get to play either possession or small-sided games trying to get everyone involved in playing quicker. We are a great team when we possess the ball, and working on it every week is crucial for us. Thursday's practice was a light day for us considering we were leaving for Alabama right after.
The six-hour bus ride went fast, but the hotel and sleep could not come soon enough for everyone. Friday morning we went for a jog and stretch and then had lunch at Panera Bread Company. Some of us went walking around the strip where there was a Barnes and Noble and other nice stores to look in. Friday was game-day and it was time to get prepared. We went into the game knowing what we had to do. We dominated the team but for some reason could not get the ball in the goal. It was a rough 1-0 loss for us but we will only get better and move on from there. After the game we got back on the bus and drove three hours to Auburn where we got in at 1 a.m. We were all exhausted and could not wait to go to bed.
Saturday morning was a nice day to relax after we had practice. It was a day to do your own thing and do homework or go out with families that had come to support our team. We got together Saturday night to go to dinner at Logan's Roadhouse where we made lots of noise while cheering for our football team on ESPN.
Sunday was game-day once again, where we lost 2-0 to Auburn, a game where we dominated once again but for some reason could not pull away with a win. We all know how important this weekend was, but a great team can come away from two losses and do great things. It is all about learning from what you did wrong and trying to make it better next time. Every team wins some and loses some, and this weekend was just not our weekend. We have a strong group of girls on this team and there is no way that this weekend will keep our heads down.
Thank you again to our fans that travel such long ways to cheer for us, and thank you for those who support us at our home field. We are looking forward to play Thursday night at 7 p.m. at home against LSU where we will come away with nothing but a WIN. This team is capable of great things and will continue to stick together through whatever may come our way.
October 13, 2008 - Dani Monteiro blogs after returning to the field for the first time since getting injured at Western Carolina on Sept. 21.
I want to start by saying thank you to the fans for coming out to support us in our games at home this weekend against Mississippi State and Ole Miss. We really appreciate all the support you fans give to us. Without your help, we would not have such a strong desire to play hard and win the games. So for you fans, thank you very much!
Let's start talking about our week of practice where everyone was dedicated and happy knowing that our games this weekend would be at home where we are very strong and we will do everything that we can to not disappoint our fans, families and ourselves.
Now, let's talk about our first game against Mississippi State, which was a battle on Friday night when both teams were fresh and ready to go and win another SEC game. We battled hard and the game was very intense and physical. We believed in ourselves, which gave us the momentum to knock Mississippi State out in the first half. The first goal was assisted by Sam (Diaz-Matosas) for a beautiful header by Kayla Grimsley. That goal gave us the relaxation and mentality to push us through for our second goal by Brooke (Jacobs). She had a great strike with the left foot to put the ball in the back post beating the keeper.
We came out for the second half motivated, however Mississippi State scored a goal, but this did not affect the way our team stayed together and battled until the end.
Our next opponent was Ole Miss, which we knew would be another challenge because they were much more physical and it was a Sunday game, where in the SEC anything could happen in the game. Before halftime the coaches put me in. I was very nervous but very excited in the same time. I would like to thank the fans, my boyfriend Paul, coaches and teammates for believing and supporting me all over my two weeks injury. I fought hard until the end, and that was a great feeling to be back on the field and help my teammates again. Thank you again!!!
In the second half we came out very strong and put away two goals in the opening minutes of the half. We were very composed and our goals came out in the right moment. First goal was assisted by Brittiny (Rhoades) off the corner where Blakely Mattern headed the ball passed the keeper and just enough over the line to beat the last defender. Second goal was by Shannon Bigbie, where Sam had a great pass and Kayla with all her ability left the ball at Shannon's feet. With a great turn, Shannon had a good shot and put the ball in the back of the net, giving us a two-goal advantage against a good team. As the second half continued Ole Miss tied the game, but the most important thing was we knew that we could win, and we pushed hard enough until Sam scored the game-winning goal. That was an amazing feeling and seems like it took forever for her to shoot the ball. Thank God that she was calm and has the ability to put away chances like that.
The game ended with two huge victories at home this weekend. We deserved and we needed to prove to our opponents and ourselves that we are a young and very strong team in the SEC.
Thank you! Have a great week and we look forward to seeing all our fans against LSU on Thursday night on October 23 @ 7pm.
October 6, 2008 - Blakely Mattern
Our team started this week of practice coming off a really strong start to the SEC conference schedule. We beat Tennessee for the first time at home in program history on Friday night and then came back with a strong come-from-behind tie against Georgia on Sunday. It showed the great strength of our team to come back and tie the game. However, another difference for this year's team is that we were disappointed with that result, feeling that we were the better team and wanted a win. I think that shows just how much we have grown to where we no longer accept a tie to a strong opponent in SEC; we want to win every game we play. I believe that is the attitude you need to have and I think our team has established that mentality now.
Tuesday afternoon we had a tough practice. We worked on a lot of important things, but especially defending. Defense is tough work and something that every player on the team must work on and be committed to. Thursday was departure day and our team was ready to get going. We as a team have said that we must take care of business at home and then compete and get results on the road. We have been a good team at home this year, but it is time to prove that we are also road warriors.
After a short practice on Thursday, we pulled out for Kentucky around 3:30. This would be the longest trip for us this year, about 7 hours or so up to Lexington. It was especially difficult though as we traveled through the mountains for a ways. We finally made it though and everybody crashed as soon as we checked in the hotel.
Then it was Friday!! Game-day! And our team was excited to get back on the field. The upperclassmen especially were looking for some serious revenge from freshman year when we came on this same weekend to Kentucky and Vanderbilt and lost both games. After a short practice in the morning, we saw the game field and got even more pumped. We then headed to get some lunch and then back to the hotel to rest for a couple hours.
The rest paid off as our team came out on fire from the start. We put the pressure on and scored a great goal about ten minutes into the game. Maria Petroni got onto the ball in the box and played a great pass to Kayla Grimsley who finished first time to the far post. It was a great goal and put our team in a good position early. Kentucky is a very good team though and never gave up. They continued to put pressure on until the end of the half. We came out hard again in the second half and Kayla scored another great goal, after she followed up a beautiful cross by Shannon. Kayla seems to always be in the right spot at the right time and has the ability to put the ball in the net from anywhere. She has been a huge contribution to our team already as a freshman.
Saturday we woke up early but in a good mood after the result from the night before. We headed out to Vanderbilt around ten in the morning after some of the players got some quick pick-me-up drinks from Starbucks. The drive was about four hours, a little longer than some of us expected, so when we arrived in Nashville we were ready to get off the bus. The drive into campus was slow and congested since ESPN College Game-day was in town for the Vanderbilt-Auburn football game later that night.
We had a practice at the stadium for around an hour, stretching our legs and getting on the ball a little bit. It was nice to finally get out and run around for a while. Then it was off to our hotel. We had a couple hours to relax after we checked in until we would leave for dinner.
Dinner tonight would be different than usual and a big, big THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the Aaron family for inviting all of us to their house. Nat is from Nashville, and we were going to her house to have dinner. Her parents had cooked and prepared a whole meal for the team, including tons of fruit, salad, pasta, bread, and all sorts of desserts, and everything was amazing. It all tasted so good, and all of us could not stop eating. Despite just stuffing my face, after dinner Miller, Kacie, and I challenged Shelley (our coach), Bonny, and Ellen to a three-on-three basketball game outside. It was a tough, physical game but my team came out on top even though Shelbel would argue that they won. Either way, it was a fun night and a good escape from the usual restaurant atmosphere we normally have team dinners at. It was cool to get to interact more with everyone in a more relaxed setting.
When we got back to the hotel, I think it is safe to say that everyone crashed right away. With all the travel, everybody was pretty exhausted. Sunday we woke up, had breakfast, and Mils and I took the team on a walk and stretch. During the stretch, we talked to the team about the importance of this game and made sure we were all focused and ready to go. Sundays in the SEC are extremely hard, especially on the road, and take everyone on the team working hard to get a result. It is going to be hot and both teams are tired, but the one with the most heart and will to win was going to come out on top. After the past two results to Vanderbilt my freshman and sophomore year, we definitely wanted to come out and get a victory this afternoon.
Unfortunately, we can out too slow to start the game and gave up an early, cheap goal. We played better towards the end of the second half but giving that first half away would come back to hurt us in the end. We played a hundred times better in the second half, putting them under a lot of pressure, especially toward the end of the game. We scored our goal late in the second half. We fought hard until the final whistle to get that second goal but it just would not fall for us. I was proud of our team though for not getting our heads down after going down by two pretty lucky goals by Vandy. We continued to battle and work to get back in the game, but the deficit would prove to be too big.
We learned a valuable lesson in this game though that hopefully we will carry forward throughout the remainder of the season, and that is that we must come out strong and play from the start of the game and not wait until the second half to start working. The teams in this conference are just too good to give halves away like we did in this game. It just comes back to kill you when you do. I know our team though and the strength we have and the determination we have to win. I know for a fact that we will learn from this loss and get better for next weekend.
We return home on Friday night, where we have done very well and are very comfortable. We will play Mississippi State on Friday and then Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon. This will be a crucial weekend for us, coming off the loss on Sunday. Points are extremely important in the conference standings, so we need to take care of business at home and get two wins.
It is so nice to know though that we are coming home this weekend after a very long road trip. You fans have been such an important part of our success at home, by making the atmosphere at "The Graveyard" so awesome to play in. I hope to see everyone this Friday night against the bulldogs, as out team tries to bounce back and claim another conference home win.
September 29, 2008 - Kim Miller
Coming into practice this week the team looked focused and ready to work hard. Tuesday's practice we worked on the attack, getting the wingers to the end lines and taking defenders on one vs. one. It is crucial for our team for our players to have confidence; our team is great all around and everyone on this team brings something different. On Wednesday, after doing small-sided technical work, we had a scrimmage, something we have not done since preseason and probably one of my favorite things to do. It is always nice playing in a game within your own team. It gives people chances to work on things they need to and for people to play in different positions. Thursday was not a physically demanding practice; it is a day where we get together to mentally prepare and focus for the upcoming weekend.
Then it was FRIDAY - Game day vs. Tennessee!!! It was a 7:00 pm kickoff time but we were all excited from the moment we woke up that morning. It was family weekend so a bunch of the team's families were in town, which made the weekend even better. We all knew what an exciting game this was going to be; Tennessee always has a great team and always brings their game, which makes it that much better, especially when we win! At the start of the game it was raining lightly but by the end of the game it eventually stopped. Blakely scored the first goal of the game from a corner kick by Rhoades. We have been working on set pieces for a while now and it is a great feeling knowing that it is paying off. Later on in the game Tennessee tied it up. In the 73rd minute off a double assist from Rhoades to Grimsley then to Natalie Aaron, we scored the game-winning goal! It was awesome for Natalie to score the game-winning goal; she is from Tennessee and for that to be her first goal is even better. That was a great win for our program and everyone was so excited.
Saturday's practice was a light one due to the fact our bodies were tired from the night before. Saturdays are always fun because it's a time where we can relax and be together as a team preparing for Sunday's game. The team was excited for practice to end so those who had family here could go spend some quality time with them. For me, my parents, sisters, aunt and cousin came from New York and we went to Frankie's Fun Park where we rode go carts and played Miniature Golf together! My cousin is the team's biggest fan and made a special something for every player and a big banner to hang up on game days! It is so nice to see your families and to spend a day with them. It makes you miss home but makes you love them even more.
Sunday's game was against Georgia, a team where there was a lot of revenge to be had. Sunday games in the SEC are extremely hard and the team that works the hardest and does not give up is the team that comes out on top. UGA scored the first goal late in the first half, but we're a comeback team and once again Natalie scored the goal to tie up the game. We definitely dominated for 70 minutes of the game. The game then went in to sudden death two 10-minute overtime periods but neither team could grab a goal. The game was exciting but once again we can only move forward and get better for the weekend coming up where we go to Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Following the game our parents put together a wonderful tailgate for all of the players and coaches and families to eat and socialize and just hangout before everyone left. Once again, on behalf of the USC women's soccer team here at USC I would like to thank all of our fans for coming out and supporting us, it really makes a difference when we have a crowd cheering us on.
September 22, 2008 - Blakely Mattern
Our team started this week very excited and with even more confidence and chemistry within our team. Coming off last weekend's results from the tournament at Auburn, we all saw what we are capable of doing this season when we play to our potential and together as a team. The game last Sunday against Florida State was hot and long as we went into double overtime, but the difference in this year's team is that we all play for each other and support each other no matter who is on the field or how many minutes we play. Everyone contributed last Sunday, and having teammates on the bench who stand up the whole game and are cheering every minute pushes those on the field to give it their all, and that was the difference for us last weekend.
That said, our team came into Tuesday's practice feeling good and ready to carry that momentum from last weekend and build to get ready for Friday night. Tuesday is our hard practice of the week, where we usually run a bit more and really get better on the things we weren't our best at in the last games. The defense concentrated on specifics, like staying tight together and recovery runs, which are crucial to our goal of a shutout. The offense then worked on finishing under pressure, which is always something we can continue to work on. We finally came together and worked on 1v1, and then we did some team sprints to end practice. Although it was a tough, physically demanding practice, it was important things that we needed to concentrate on in order to get better for our next games.
On Wednesday and Thursday our practices were not as difficult physically, however we were working hard to prepare mentally for our game on Friday. Coaches always do a great job getting us ready for our games and particular opponents.
Then it was GAMEDAY!!!! Our team was excited to be back at the Graveyard and in front of our fans playing under the lights on our field. We were definitely ready to go at kickoff. We started strong and we were all over the goal from the beginning. Roomie (Danila Monteiro) scored a great goal within the first ten minutes to get us going. It was an awesome ball through the defense by Brooke Jacobs. As a defender, it is always nice when we score early. It relaxes the defense so we can kind of settle in and play. A few minutes later Smallsy (Lindsay Small) put us up by two goals with a great finish from inside the box after Kayla Grimsley played the ball back and across the six-yard box. Soon after, Smalls returned the favor by playing a beautiful ball through the whole tam and in behind right into the stride of Kayla who placed the ball right passed the keeper into the net. Then right before the first half ended Brittiny Rhoades took a great corner that came right into the center of the box and I headed it into the goal. I was so happy to finally score on a set piece for my first goal of the season. Britt does a great job getting the corners into a dangerous area and we finally connected for a goal.
Our team played great for the rest of the game. The four-goal lead allowed us to get everyone a chance to play some minutes in the second half. It was awesome to see all of the girls out there working hard and showing the great depth of our team. I was excited too for Roya (Mojarab) to see a couple minutes at the end of the game. She did a great job in there, including her slide tackle to win the ball outside the box even though that play scared Brittiny and I to death. Anyways, I was so happy that all the girls got a chance to play and they all did extremely well.
The next day we met for a short practice in the morning. We went through a couple adjustments from Friday night and a little preparation for our Sunday game. After practice, we had a couple hours to get packed and ready to travel to North Carolina. We met and left around 3 p.m. that afternoon. We stopped and had a really good dinner at Outback on the way and got to Cullowhee around 8:30 Saturday night.
Sunday's game was against Western Carolina and when we got to the field everyone seemed excited and ready to go. It was a tough game from the start. The team was very physical and was kicking us from behind and grabbing us every time we got the ball. Early in the game, Dani went down with an injury to her knee and could not return to play for us. We fought hard throughout the game, but unfortunately, we gave up a cheap goal in the second half and could not score during the remaining minutes. It was a frustrating game and a disappointing result after such a great tournament the weekend before. Our team will learn from our mistakes in the game and build this week at practice to get ready for the start of conference play next weekend.
The SEC is an extremely tough conference where every game is important. That is why it is crucial that we prepare this week and come out ready to play on Friday night. I know how strong our team is and I have no doubt that we will bounce back and build for our games this weekend.
I want to say thank you again to all the fans and people who support our team. We hope to see everyone on Friday night when the Tennessee Vols come to town and we look to start off conference play with a victory.
September 15, 2008 - Dani Monteiro
This weekend we traveled to Auburn where Marquette, Auburn, Florida State and the Gamecocks were in the tournament to battle against each other to decide who would be the champions by the end of the weekend. We traveled six hours by bus, leaving on Thursday in the afternoon and getting there late Thursday night. Friday we played against a very good Marquette team, but I had something special going for me that Friday - it was my birthday. I turned 22 years old. Being the oldest one in the team, I was very pumped up for the game and ready to prove one more time that our team is a very consistent and a strong team. Playing games at home or games away does not matter as long as we get the result.
We played well from the beginning to the end. We were composed in every position and the most important thing is that we were positive and playing for each other. From our first games we found our way to win, and playing against Marquette wasn't any different. We found our way and we scored first, putting us at a great position to win the game. They were very physical, but our team was very determined to win that battle and we did. To win and celebrate with my teammates and coaches was one of the birthday presents that I wished would come true from the beginning of the day.
The next day we had a very light day. We practiced at noon and our minds now were all focused on Florida State, a team that was ranked seventh in the nation and is a very talented and dangerous team. In the afternoon, some people went with their parents to eat and the hubbas stayed and ended up going to the best hamburger place with the best french fries ever!!! Miller, Sam, Natalie, Ali G, Stephanie (our athletic trainer), Miquel (our media relations guy), Shannon, Smalls and I went together. That was the best part of the day. The hamburgers and fries were so good that afterwards we were all in to get delicious ice cream!!! Girls, we rocked!!! And we are such fatties!
Ok. Now lets get back to Florida State. Our team was so motivated to play against Florida State. We were the underdogs, and we were loving that idea, therefore we could show ourselves that we are capable to win and do whatever it takes to beat and play for each other against any teams that are very skilled.
First half we were all in, winning balls in the air or going to the ground and being supportive, from the girls on the bench and coaches as well. We scored with a beautiful goal by Miller. Ole Mexican!!! Afterwards we scored again by Kayla that was assisted by myself. Before the end of the first half Florida State had their chance to score and they did, but we were still up a goal.
What is good about this young team is that everyone wants the best of each other. We communicate and most importantly we believe and help each other on and off the field. Before the coaches came to talk to us before the second half started, we were all together trying to find our way to continue to do our job and finish up the game strong and with confidence.
The second half started and Florida State took what we gave to them - two chances and we paid for it. Now they were up a goal against us, 3-2. But like what I've said, this young team never will give up on anything and that's what happened. We found our away again and from a corner kick Idana DeCecco scored and put us in a good position again to finish up or take that game to OT. We were ready to go to OT and determined to win, but we knew that we had to be composed and do whatever it takes to make sure defensively we were doing our part as well as offensively and try to keep the ball with smart decisions.
Our coaches performed well throughout the game, making good decisions and putting the correct people in the game. They had a great strategy in how to start, finish and give us the excitement for this big game.
Both teams ended up playing an amazing match that finish as a 3-3 tie, keeping our team still undefeated and making our trip home much better. We all know that we have to still work hard this coming week; therefore we can correct our mistakes and continue to improve in the competition to win the SEC title.
It's so good to be back home after this weekend knowing that our fans and families will be there supporting us against East Tennessee State this coming Friday at 7:00 pm after we had a very good weekend with strong results. We all know the importance of each game, playing home or playing away, but we are always excited to play at home and extra motivated in knowing that we have our hometown support and our advantage of our turf.
Good job girls this weekend. I'm proud of everyone. Keep working hard!!!
September 8, 2008 - Kim Miller
Coming off a great win against Boston University Sunday night, it was time to prepare for the upcoming week. Having Monday off was huge for us, giving us time to catch up on schoolwork and give our bodies a rest. Tuesdays are our long practices where we watch film, practice and run. Wednesday is where we fix everything that we can control and focus on how to get better for the next game. Thursday is one day closer to gameday! Coaches do a great job of preparing our team for the game. They make us better than we were the day before by pushing us until we pass our limit.
It was finally here...Orange & Purple vs. Garnet & Black; one of the biggest rivalries in the world - and it all went down on Friday, September 5th at Eugene Stone Stadium. I want to thank all of our parents and fans for supporting us at our games and being there for us. It makes it a lot easier for our team to pull out a victory when we have fans screaming for us! It was the game we have been waiting for, revenge from last year, to prove on our home field which team was better. The Clemson game was great for our team. It was a time for the upperclassmen to stand out and the freshman to step up. Lindsay Small (hubba) scored the game-winning goal to give us a win in our first game of the Carolina's Cup Tournament. I am so happy for Smalls. It was her second career goal and she definitely deserved it. Our team has really come together and we work for each other.
Saturday was a holiday for one of our players - it was Lolly's birthday! Lolly spent her 19th birthday with the team at practice that morning. It is a good practice for all of the players where those who played a lot jog and stretch and others who want to play, can. The rest of the day we had off to relax, spend time with the families who came and to just have time for ourselves. This weekend was a great family weekend. There were many parents who came to support our team and spend time with their daughters.
Sunday morning we all got together to have a team breakfast put together by the coaches. It is always nice when we can sit together as a team and talk to one another about things besides soccer. After breakfast, some of us went to watch the Clemson vs. Francis Marion game while others went to the locker room to get ready for our game.
We knew this game vs. Furman was not going to be easy but were prepared to fight, willing to do anything to get the win! It was one of the hottest days we have had in a while, but that did not distract us one bit. Kayla Grimsley scored her first career goal off of a great cross from Natalie Aaron, or should I say Canks. Kayla made the run that (associate coach) Jamie has been talking to us about for weeks now. Natalie and I did a give and go, then she took a player on and crossed it and Kayla headed it in the back of the net!!! It was a great goal. The look on her face after she scored was priceless. Second half came and Furman scored, so we then went into OT. During the first overtime, Bonny was going to goal as she was tripped and fouled in the box. It was a great job by Bonny to get where she did; if she wasn't fouled she would have scored. I then stepped up to take the PK. Very confident I did my routine and put the game on my shoulders, knowing I would lead the team to victory. Scoring that game-winning goal was a great feeling, just knowing I could help my team out in whatever way possible was incredible. It was a great win for our team. We took the championship cup from the Carolina's Cup Tournament, something that our team definitely worked hard for. Now we will move forward with this win under our belts, preparing and improving for the upcoming weekend. For those who come out and watch us play, thank you - we really appreciate it.
September 1, 2008 - Blakely Mattern
I would like to first reiterate what both Dani and Kim have said the past two weeks in their blogs by saying thank you to everyone who is involved in and supports the women's soccer program here at South Carolina. Playing here at this university is a dream come true for me and I am so honored to represent this school and this team. As a junior, with half my college career already behind me, I can definitely say that these four years go by so quickly. I will never forget the day I walked into the locker room as a freshman for the first time and saw all these shirts, shorts and new shoes sitting in a locker with my name on it. It was like Christmas in August, and that was the moment it hit me that from that point on I was a Division I athlete and wearing these clothes meant something more.
It has been an awesome two years since that first day in the locker room. This past spring I was fortunate enough to get voted upon by my teammates as one of the captains of our team, along with Kim and Dani. Being captain is big role and a lot of hard work, but every minute of it is worth it because I know I am serving this great group of girls and doing my best to help the team achieve our goals. It is great to work along side both Kim and Dani as captains. We each have such distinct personalities, which I think allows the team to connect with us so well. The three of us also have a lot of trust in each other and communicate well together which shows both on and off the field.
Season is finally underway!! After out first game on Saturday we finally got into somewhat of a rhythm with practice this week. We had the day off on Sunday since it was the day after a game, but got right back to work on Monday with practice in the afternoon. Practice did end a little earlier than normal because of lighting in the area and we had to run up to the field house from the practice field. That run is probably the worst run ever! By the time we finally reach the "bubble" as we call it, our calves are on fire so much that we can barely walk.
We continued practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite the bad weather predictions, both days the rain held off until after practice was over. On Tuesday we were walking out to the stadium for practice and saw that the grounds crew had painted our field in preparation for Thursday's game. The big "C" with the gamecock looked amazing in the middle of the field and got all of us even more pumped and excited for our first home game of the season. Then on Wednesday we had a film session prior to practice. Watching yourself in action on video is always a good way to see what you did wrong and fix mistakes as well as see the things you did correctly. Coaches do a great job of getting specific clips from the last game together and show us particular plays and areas which we can improve.
Finally it was Thursday!!!! GAMEDAY!!!! It was our first home game of the season and the team could not have been more psyched to return to "The Graveyard." I speak for all the returners in saying that we all have a lot of pride when we're playing at home and expect to win here. And for the freshman, it was exciting to finally play a real game at our stadium after years of watching games as a recruit. The game was a lot of fun. We played well in our first home match, passing with each other and creating a lot of chances to score. Unfortunately, we didn't collect a goal in the run of play but Sammi put us on top with a PK in the first half. We hung on to the lead and won 1-0. Coaches say and we believe that one of our goals this season is to get better each game and I think we did that in this game. We got our first win of the season, which is awesome, and also did a lot of things better that we had worked on all week in practice.
After some frigid ice baths, it was on to the first football game of the season. All the sports teams were going to be recognized at halftime on the football field, so our team quickly got ready and got over to the game just before halftime, wearing our khaki shorts and nice, new Under Armour polos. Halftime was awesome! We walked out behind our Women's Soccer banner into the exact center of the field and gave a big wave when our sport was called. It is nice that the university recognizes all their other sports teams along with football. This school has so many talented student-athletes, and I think it is important that they all get noticed for their hard work. Afterwards, some of us hung around to watch some more of the game as our boys beat NC State 34-0!
Friday and Saturday we continued practicing but both were pretty moderate since we were recovering from our game Thursday and preparing for our second match of the weekend on Sunday night! In preparation we also had a walk through practice Sunday morning and then a pre-game lunch together right after.
After a long afternoon of resting and drinking lots of water, it was game time! And this was our first home night game of the season!! It is always exciting when we get to play under the lights at our stadium and tonight was our first time. We would face a tough opponent in Boston University though. We knew that this was going to be a tougher test, but our team rose to the challenge. We came out firing in the game and had multiple chances to score in the first twenty minutes. The game kind of settled down after that and was back and forth for a while. In the second half, we started strong as well. After ten minutes or so, Smallsy scored a great goal, which was the first goal of her career. It was a total team effort. Miller played a great ball into the box which Shannon challenged for and caused a knock down. Smallsy was right there and finished with a beautiful shot to the near post. This was our team's first goal this season in the run of play and we were pumped. That goal propelled us through the rest of the game and we fought hard for the last thirty minutes, including through a torrential downpour for the last twenty. That was a great win for our team and I think one that will bring us even closer together!
Now after a day off Monday, we start preparing this week and focusing for our big rivalry game Friday night when Clemson comes to town. I know the team is all ready excited and pumped up to play them and for sure will be ready to go Friday night!
Thanks again to everyone, especially all you fans that come out to watch and support us...you guys are awesome and we love you!
August 25, 2008 - Kim Miller
To start off I would like to thank the athletic trainers, fans, coaches and team for all of the dedication and hard work that they put into this program. I am honored to be part of the Gamecock soccer program, and it is my pleasure to work with such a great group of people. Being a junior and one of the upper-classmen on the team, it is safe to say that the best years of your life fly by so fast. I can still remember when I first stepped on the field as a freshman for the first time and was in awe. This year I am very lucky to get the opportunity to be even more involved on the team. Being captain means a lot to me and I try to take the role seriously. It is a pleasure to work with co-captains senior Dani Monteiro and junior Blakely Mattern. We work very well together, balancing each other out. We each bring different attributes and have different personalities, which works well with helping and understanding the team. To them, Dani (Mexican) and Blakely, I want to thank you for being great people and I love you two!
Preseason finally winded down last week when there was six days until game day. The last week of preseason went smoothly; playing 11 vs. 11 games in the stadium is something that the team always looks forward to. It is a time for the coaches to figure out which players fit which roles. It gives the team a chance to work with different players and switch things up a little.
Thursday was the day that we have all been waiting for, the first day of school! Being a student-athlete can be difficult at times but is extremely rewarding. We are lucky enough to have a great academic environment that cares greatly for the athletes and wants them to be successful on the field and in the classroom. Personally, being a Physical Education major, I was definitely more excited for some classes rather than others. I love the classes that are hands on and where I get to learn about the different P.E essentials. Girls on the team get jealous that I have soccer class or badminton class when they are sitting through lectures, but I simply smile and say, "Hey, it's part of my major".
Thursdays practice could not come soon enough. After spending the day sitting in class, listening to your teacher ramble on and on, practice is the part of the day when we all come together and do something that we all love, and that is to play soccer. There are times when we are all focused and serious, but there are definitely moments when one of us has some kind of strange outburst and laughter is uncontrollable.
Friday was our first away trip and you could tell that everyone was excited. Our first game was in 24 hours against UNC Wilmington. Pulling away at 2 pm in our coach bus was when the trip began. We have a USC Women's Soccer tradition that happens on the bus during the first away trip of every season. Roya (freshman goalie) was chosen to go first and boy did she set high standards. The rest of the freshman did a great job and it was absolutely hilarious! It is a great bonding experience for our team.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Blakely Mattern's aunt who invited the whole team over for a dinner at her gorgeous house. There were salads, pastas and deserts, some delicious brownies!!! The food was incredible and our team would like to go back there before every game, if that was possible.
Saturday was GAMEDAYYYY!!! We arrived at the field at 1pm to get both mentally and physically prepared. It was a hot and sunny day for the game and both teams were excited. The game went well, it was a hard fought battle between both teams. The players both defensive and offensive worked hard getting their job done. It was Mollie Patton's first game and came up with some great saves! She kept our team alive and knowing she was behind us was a great feeling to have, especially for me playing in the midfield. This was a great start for our team; we can only improve now and move forward, and get better for the games to come. We have things we need to work on, and the coaches will do a great job in making sure we are ready our next game.
Thursday night at 5pm is our home opener for the 2008 season against Eastern Carolina. I am very confident in our team and staff that we will get a win on Thursday. We will need to put in a lot of hard work and preparation in order to be successful, but in the end it is all worth it!
Thank you again; to everyone - and to the fans, we love you!!!
August 18, 2008 - Danila Monteiro
First of all, I am so happy to play for the South Carolina Gamecocks. It has been my pleasure to be a part of this family with such a good group of coaches and teammates. Of my 15 years of playing soccer, this preseason has been the very best. I am sad that I am a senior because these days of my life are so great being with my team and playing soccer. I really do not want this to end. It is an honor to be co-captains with Blakely Mattern and Kim Miller. They have great personalities and very strong soccer minds, which is the key to leading the team. We have trust in each other's decisions and opinions. Our knowledge of the game makes our leadership of the team easier and more present. "Blakely (Roomie) and Miller (Mexican), I love you girls!"
Summer II workouts started with 14 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and myself as a senior training everyday at 6:30AM on the field, pool, sand and weight room. At night we had pickups to have touches on the ball. The freshmen from the very beginning looked very strong and very ready to adapt to the team. The upperclassmen, with our relationships from the previous seasons, helped the freshmen out to get a feel of how everything works on the team, how we play together, and how we adjust to one another's ability. Yes, Summer II takes a long time and was rough, but it passed fast and we grew as a team and strengthened our weaknesses.
Preseason began August 6th with a healthy and strong group of players. Thanks to our work in Summer II, everyone was in great shape, was familiar with each other, and came in with eagerness to put the work in so we can have a great season. Preseason is so far so good. We train twice a day; depending on the day we do different workouts and different training sessions. The worst part of preseason to me is the ice tub after training. Don't get me wrong, I know that it is very good for the muscles, but hey, I am from Brazil, and I do not like to be cold. The best part of preseason is the food after training! This is where we can relax and talk between the team, eat, and replenish ourselves.
Last week was so much fun because we trained in the morning, and in the afternoon we went to Frankie's Fun Park. The best part was seeing our team having so much fun, including myself, and watching our team form a great relationship. I played laser tag where I got second every time, only to lose to a freshman, but that was a blast. Next, we raced go-karts where I got first! That was my favorite part of the fun park!
Our team is very grateful of the community and our fans. Everywhere we go there are people who enjoy watching us, from little children to adults. It is a great feeling to know that our team can represent ourselves to the community and they see us as wonderful people. We try our very best to give back to the community because without their support we wouldn't have the desire to win like we do.
After Frankie's we had a team dinner and it was good to see the team mingling and entertaining each other. We had a great time with each other and made the experience one that will never be forgotten.
We are going through the last week of preseason, and my heart is beating so fast because I realize that we have our first game soon. I know our team is strong and capable to train hard this week and start our journey to a winning season. I really believe that this group of players is the most talented and strong, mentally and physically, to win every game of the season. Even if we lose, I know the next day we will have our heads up looking forward to our next opponents.
Yesterday, Sunday, August 17th, we planned to have a full field scrimmage, but it started raining. Even though we didn't play soccer like we wanted to, we stayed together and played games, talked, laughed and had a great time with each other. That was so much fun to spend time with my teammates.
Saturday, our challenges start. We are traveling to UNC Wilmington to play against their squad. We are putting everything we can into this game, as we are prepared to show that even though this is a young team, we can work together to achieve the results we are looking for.
Thank you again coaches, athletic trainers, co-captains, and teammates for giving me the best moments of my life.