Aug. 17, 2012
The match was just the fourth South Carolina opener to go to overtime, the last being a scoreless draw at UNC Wilmington in the 2008 opener. South Carolina had not had a regular season draw since playing Vanderbilt to a 0-0 tie on September 24, 2010. The team did not have a single tie in the 2011 season.
"They showed a lot of heart," South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. "It was a tough battle. Milwaukee did a great job. They were tough. Both teams really showed a lot of heart. I thought we had some freshmen that came in, started and played tremendous minutes for us. Throwing them into the first game, they really showed that they can play. We had some good chances. Credit to their goalkeeper they had some great saves to deny us. It was a great game and I'm proud of the team's effort.""
It was a strong opening at Engelmann where the Panthers, who are receiving votes in the NSCAA poll, have gone 55-5-6 since the 2005 season. South Carolina earned a 17-10 shot advantage and 6-4 corner kick advantage, forcing Milwaukee into eight saves. Senior Darien Vercillo posted three saves in the shutout.
"It's definitely a lot of pressure to come in," Smith said. "Obviously Sabrina (D'Angelo) has been a loss for us but that's the job of the goalkeepers behind her to show that the team is in good hands. Giving Darien the start tonight, she came up big for us. She made some great plays. I'm proud of how she played tonight."
The Gamecocks fielded an even lineup at the start of the game with three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and two seniors while playing into the setting sun at Engelmann Stadium. The reigning SEC champions raced out in the opening 20 minutes with a dominating time of possession. Danielle Au earned the distinction of getting the first shot of the 2012 season with an attempt in the second minute that was saved by Milwaukee's All-Region goalkeeper Jamie Forbes.
The three freshman starters - Coryn Bajema, Caroline Gray and Stevi Parker - put in an impressive opening half with Parker getting a shot blocked in traffic within the '18 and Bajema and Gray heading up the left side of the field admirably. South Carolina nearly put the first goal on board in the 32nd after a Bajema cross found Taylor Leach on the back post for a header, but Forbes was able to grab the ball inches before crossing the line.
The Panthers began to go on the offensive in the next 10 minutes with a header going wide of goal in the 41st before getting the first look on Vercillo with a straight shot in the 42nd. The teams went into the half with the Gamecocks holding a 6-3 shot advantage and 2-1-corner kick advantage.
The Panthers earned good positioning in the 60th minute after winning a free kick 25 yards out, but the team decided on a quick reset that resulted in no shot and the end of the threat. After a Milwaukee run of possession, Christa Neary put a header off a corner kick just over the net. The first shot on goal in the second half for either team came in the 84th minute when Danielle Au fought free in the box and rifled a shot that Forbes saved on reflex. Au's follow-up hit a defender's back, and the threat was ended after Lani Smith was called for a handball on the third follow-up.
Milwaukee brought the pressure right back with a breakaway that saw Kelly Lewers get a 1v1 with Vercillo, but the senior goalkeeper came up with possibly the biggest save of her Gamecock career, and the teams would end up in overtime.
Gabrielle Gilbert had the only look for either team in the first overtime period after streaking behind the backline but seeing her shot saved for a corner kick. The second overtime period saw more fireworks with Milwaukee attempting a corner in the 105th that had the danger saved by a leaping Vercillo for the grab. Minutes later Au took a turn for the Gamecocks with a shot that Forbes was able to smother. The Panthers were able to get the final looks with a free kick and corner in the final 18 seconds that went without a shot for the draw.
South Carolina continues its season-opening weekend with a visit to Minnesota with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday afternoon.
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