SEC Weekly Video Feature: Shelley Smith
After a regular season that saw Smith collect her 200th career head coaching victory, a pair of wins over top-10 teams and Savannah McCaskill earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors, a postseason run cemented the 2014 team’s place in the record book. The Gamecocks were awarded their second-straight national seed in the NCAA Tournament after posting a 14-6-5 record and an SEC Tournament Semifinal appearance and hosted rival Clemson in the first round. A heart-stopping penalty kick shootout the No. 22 Tigers at Stone Stadium ultimately ended with South Carolina advancing. Against Seattle in the second round, the Gamecocks earned their second-straight shutout, despite missing All-American Sabrina D’Angelo in goal due to an injury. Freshman Abbey Crider stepped between the pipes for her first collegiate start and delivered two crucial saves in the team’s second round of penalty kicks in as many games to move the Gamecocks on to the Round of 16 for just the second time in school history. Two days later, Crider posted her second shutout of the weekend, this time against No. 6 North Carolina on their home turf. The 1-0 victory advanced South Carolina to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. South Carolina is the only active Division I soccer program with a winning record against the vaunted Tar Heels, with both wins coming in Chapel Hill with Smith at the helm. Florida State proved to be too much in the national quarterfinal, but the program had taken another step and wrapped up the season ranked No. 9 in the final NSCAA rankings, tying a program high.
After only seven wins in 2012, Smith's program re-emerged on the national scene in 2013, rising to as high as No. 7 in the NSCAA poll. A 1-0 defeat of No. 7 Duke during the opening weekend was just the beginning. With only one loss on their record heading to No. 8 Florida in early October, the Gamecocks became the first program in the SEC to topple the Gators in consecutive matches in Gainesville, Fla., (2011 & 2013) as they pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win in double overtime. It marked the first time program history that a Gamecock team had defeated pair of Top 10 opponents in the same season.
On its home field, the squad never wavered, posting the first perfect home record (11-0-0) in program history, allowing just four goals at The Graveyard. The run helped the squad become the first Carolina team to enter the postseason ranked in the Top 10. The season ended in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament to Stanford for the second time in three years. Both the No. 15 final ranking and final record of 17-4-2 were the second-best ranking and record in program history.
With the successful season, the accolades began to come as goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo earned NSCAA First-Team All-America honors behind 12 shutouts and a 0.59 goals against average. Along with D'Angelo, defender Taylor Leach and forward Danielle Au earned All-South Region accolades. Along with being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, D'Angelo, was paired with centerback Taylor Leach on the All-SEC First Team, while midfielder Chelsea Drennan was selected to the All-SEC Freshman Team. D'Angelo's big season also earned her spot on the coveted semifinal list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, becoming the first Gamecock to earn the distinction.
Carolina's success has also been apparent in the classroom under Smith, who has coached 205 SEC Academic Honor Roll recipients since coming to USC in 2001. South Carolina has earned an Academic All-America selection in eight of the past 10 seasons. In 2014, the Gamecocks saw their first pair of NSCAA Scholar All-Americans, with D’Angelo earning first team honors for the second year in a row while Leach was a third teamer. South Carolina has also collected 13 NSCAA Team Academic Awards in her tenure.
Smith has coached several top student-athletes at Carolina including Ashley Kirk, USC's first four-time All-SEC honoree, Carolina's All-Americans in four-time All-SEC selection Blakely Mattern and two-time SEC Player of the Year Kayla Grimsley, and two-time All-SEC performers Melinda Carter, Jessica Julin and Sarah Lentz. Julin, a fromer captain of the Finland National Team, and Carter and Mattern played in the WUSA and WPS, respectively. After the 2014 season, D’Angelo became program’s first NWSL draftee, going 22nd overall in the third round to the Western New York Flash. The All-American subsequently became the only rookie goalkeeper to earn a regular starting job in 2015.
The Gamecocks have earned 38 All-SEC honors in the last 13 years and players have collected an SEC Player of the Year (player, freshman, offensive, defensive or scholar) awards.
In her first season as head coach at Carolina (2001), the Gamecocks were the third-most improved team in the nation with an 8-7-3 overall record. Carolina also performed well at home with a 5-3 at Stone Stadium while allowing opponents to score only four goals in eight matches.
The success continued for USC in 2002 with 13 wins in Smith's second season. The year was highlighted with USC's first ever victories against Florida and Kentucky. Smith also coached her team to ties against 2002 SEC champion Auburn and Eastern Division champion Tennessee.
Smith led the Gamecocks to another successful season in 2003 with 10 wins including a USC record eight-game unbeaten streak as well as a 6-2-1 record at home in Stone Stadium.
The 2004 season featured a win over No. 7 Clemson, the Gamecocks' first win over a ranked opponent since 1998, as well as a 6-3 mark in non-conference action. Ashley Kirk also became the first freshman soccer player in school history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year. In addition, Carolina set a school record for a home game winning streak with six consecutive wins.
Following an injury filled 2005 season, the program took a big step forward in 2006 as USC went undefeated at home for the first time in school history with an 8-0-3 mark at Stone Stadium. The team's cumulative goals against average of 0.69, then the lowest ever tallied at Carolina. The season culminated with the Gamecocks advancing to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time in Carolina history, as Blakely Mattern became the team's first Freshman All-America selection since 1998.
Smith directed the 2007 Gamecocks to arguably the best season in school history at that time, tying the school record with 14 victories and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history. Carolina posted a 14-6-3 overall record including a 5-4-2 mark in the SEC after beginning the season by becoming the first team ever to knock off defending national champion and top-ranked North Carolina in a season opening game at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. The Gamecocks ran to a 7-0-0 start to the season - program bests for start to a season and winning streak - and peaked at No. 7 in the national polls. For the second consecutive season South Carolina advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals after knocking off Tennessee for the first time in program history and earned the school's first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Blakely Mattern became the first sophomore to ever earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in addition to becoming the first All-American in South Carolina history.
Smith has cemented Carolina's position as a conference title contender and player on the national stage after guiding the Gamecocks in 2008 to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid and third-straight SEC Tournament bid, both program firsts. The Gamecocks went 11-7-4 overall and earned five SEC wins for the third year in a row with only one senior on the roster. Respected as a top defensive team, the Gamecocks finished the regular season second in the SEC with eight shutouts and ranked in the top two in every major defensive category including goals allowed, points allowed, shots allowed and shots on goal allowed.
Carolina moved into the upper echelon of programs after Smith guided the Gamecocks in 2009 to the program's first SEC title and a berth in the NCAA Round of 16, earning her SEC Coach of the Year and NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year honors. South Carolina was a No. 2 national seed in the NCAA tournament and finished with a 19-4-2 record, the best in school history. The Gamecocks finished as one of the top defensive teams in the nation with a school-record 15 shutouts, led by Mattern on the backline who was a consensus first team All-American and Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist in her final season. Grimsley finished the year with 33 points and was named an honorable mention All-American by Top Drawer Soccer. The team finished eighth in the nation in average attendance.
The 2010 team posted a 15-6-4 overall mark and earned the No. 2 seed in the conference with an 8-2-1 record. The team advanced to the NCAA Second Round in a year that saw Grimsley earn SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors in addition to becoming the second All-American in Gamecock history and a MAC Hermann Trophy Award candidate. The Gamecocks finished as one of the top defensive teams in the country with a streak of 11 consecutive games in limiting opponents to four shots on goal or less and 10 shutouts on the year behind the efforts of Brittiny Rhoades on the backline and Patton, a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award candidate, in goal. Rhoades was named to the first team on Top Drawer Soccer's Team of the Season. Academically the squad tied a program best with three Academic All-District honors in Patton, Christine Watts and Brooke Jacobs.
In 2011, Smith earned both NSCAA South Region and SEC Coach of the Year honors for the second time in three years after solidifying South Carolina as an elite conference contender and nationally-acclaimed program. The Gamecocks won the 2011 SEC regular season and eastern division titles with a 9-2-0 record and moved to the NCAA Second Round for the third consecutive year - one of only two SEC programs to do so in that span.
From 2007-11, Smith led the Gamecocks to 75 overall and 34 SEC victories, marks that ranked second amongst the league's 12 active coaches during that span. She guided her teams to back-to-back SEC Championship Game appearances, winning the title in 2009 and claiming second in 2010, and has seen her team play for the SEC title on the final day of the regular season each of the past three seasons, breaking through in 2011 with a 2-1 victory at No. 18 Florida.
The 2011 team posted a 16-7-0 overall mark and a program-record 9-2-0 finish in conference play en route to the title. Smith's squad finished the season with a program-record eight-match SEC winning streak to win the league despite playing road games at the league's No. 2 (LSU), No. 3 (Tennessee), No. 4 (Florida) and No. 5 (Georgia) seeds. The record-breaking season ended with a loss to eventual national champion Stanford in a year where Smith's Gamecocks played three of the four teams in the 2011 College Cup. The squad swept the SEC postseason awards with Kayla Grimsley winning her second consecutive SEC Offensive Player of the Year award and freshman Sabrina D'Angelo being named SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and SEC Goalkeeper of the Year - in the process becoming the first player in conference history to earn two player of the year honors in the same season. Grimsley also was named a second team All-American by the NSCAA and Soccer America, while D'Angelo was named a first team All-Freshman selection by the organization.
Once again, the Gamecocks finished as the top defensive unit in the league in 2011. The Gamecock squad held seven of 11 SEC opponents to four shots on goal or less, and finished the regular season as the SEC's leader in nearly every major defensive category including goals against average, shots on goal allowed and points allowed. The team posted nine shutouts on the year and was led by first team All-SEC selection Ellen Fahey. Offensively, Grimsley became South Carolina's all-time leading scorer at 119 points and finished the season eighth on the NCAA active list for career points.
In 18 years as a head coach, Smith has compiled an overall record of 210-133-41. Besides her collegiate coaching, Smith was a member of the Region III ODP staff for the past six years, as well as an assistant for the `90 Regional Team. Smith also was a member of the 2003 U-14 National Camp staff for U.S. Soccer.
With a background in both semi-professional and collegiate soccer, Smith previously served as head coach at Rhode Island from 1997-2000. The 2000 NSCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year, Smith rebuilt the URI women's soccer program, compiling a 41-34-2 overall record. Smith took a program that was 2-16 her first year to 12-6-1 in her second season, marking the eighth-most improved won-lost record for a team in NCAA history. In 2000, Smith coached URI to its best record ever of 15-4-1, while reaching the Atlantic 10 Semifinals, a first in URI history.
Smith was nominated for the 2000 National Coach of the Year. The New England Women's Soccer Intercollegiate Soccer Association (NEWISA) also named her its Division I Coach of the Year in 2000. She was the 1998 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year as well.
In addition to her experience as a coach, Smith brings experience from the semi-professional level. From 1996-2000, Smith played for the Boston Renegades in the W-1 League. Smith was captain in 2000 as she led Boston to the semifinals in the W-1 Championship. The Renegades reached the finals in 1998. Smith also had the opportunity to play overseas in 1994 as a member of the Sheffield United Women's Football Club in England.
Smith, a 1993 graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in nutritional science, received her teacher's certificate from the same institution in 1995. Smith started all four years for the Catamounts. Her primary positions were center midfielder and central defender. She was a regional All-American in both 1992 and `93 in addition to being named First Team All-North Atlantic Conference each year from 1991-93. During her freshman year, the squad won the ECAC Tournament. Vermont was one of the first programs to offer women's soccer as a varsity sport and it competed on a national level. Smith was named to Vermont's Athletic Hall of Fame in the summer of 2004.
Smith worked as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College from 1995-97. The Big Green made the NCAA Tournament in her second season with the program.
Smith is married to South Carolina associate head coach Jamie Smith, a 1994 graduate of Providence College. They are the proud parents of two sons, Braden James, born on Nov. 25, 2003 and Evan Addison born on Jan. 6, 2006. The family resides in Columbia, S.C.
Smith has her USSF B license and the NCAA Advanced National Diploma. She is currently a member of the USYSA Regional Olympic Development Staff.
A native of Shaftsbury, Vt., Smith graduated from Mount Anthony Union High School in 1989.