Gamecocks Open Home Season With 4-0 Shutout
Sept. 2, 2011
By Miquel Jacobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The seniors brought the offense in South Carolina's home opener as the Gamecocks coasted to a 4-0 shutout of Northeastern Friday night at Stone Stadium. MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List candidate Kayla Grimsley tallied two scores, Kortney Rhoades added one and Lolly Holland added one as the Gamecocks posted their third shutout victory of the season.
"To start the season, we had trouble connecting in our offensive third," South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. "I told the team the last time we did that we came back and scored five goals in one game (at Kentucky last season). Tonight was similar. We kept doing the things we needed to do. We had chances in the earlier games, and tonight we were able to capitalize on them. It was a big improvement for us."
Grimsley flicked a ball over the goalkeeper just 81 seconds into the match following a long throw-in by Ali Whitney to put the Gamecocks ahead at 1:21. After an injury filled 2010 season, Rhoades scored her first goal since the 2009 SEC Tournament when she broke past the defense on a ball by Gabrielle Gilbert and slotted it into the far post at 27:16 to make it 2-0. Grimsley added her third tally just 77 seconds into the second half, and Holland capped the match with a goal in the final minute for the Gamecocks.
Two Gamecock keepers combined for the shutout with freshman Sabrina D'Angelo getting the start and redshirt sophomore Darien Vercillo playing the final 19 minutes. D'Angelo posted two saves to earn the win.
"Sabrina's been solid in every game we've put her in," Smith said. "She's a consistent performer. She's really confident with her feet as well. She gets us out of trouble when we are in some trouble. She doesn't play like a freshman. That's why she's started for us and continues to win that role. She's shown the experience in goal already. She's proven she can play at this level and communicate with the backs. It's a long season and it's also nice to get Darien time. She's improved as a goalkeeper and it's nice to have depth in any position, especially at goalkeeper."
Following its early season offensive drought that saw the team score just one goal in the past three games, South Carolina came out strong Friday night with Grimsley's goal 81 seconds into the match. She almost added a second in the 13th with a header off of Whitney's corner kick, but the ball was kicked off the line by a Husky defender after passing the keeper.
Senior defender Ellen Fahey came close to her first score of the season with a shot in the 20th that she rifled into the top of the net, but she was ruled offside on the play. It would be seven minutes later when Rhoades scored at 27:16 that the Gamecocks would finally add to their point total. It was the first goal for Rhoades since scoring against Georgia on November 4, 2009 - a stretch that was due to her missing the majority of the 2010 season recovering from ankle surgery.
With a halftime lead and 6-2 edge in shots at the break, Grimsley again struck quick to start the second stanza with her breakaway goal just 72 seconds into the period to make it 3-0. It was the sixth two-goal performance of Grimsley's career, the last being her double at Alabama last season on a weekend that saw her earn National Player of the Week honors.
"Kayla has been very consistent," Smith said. "She's always a threat. For her to get a goal early makes all the difference in the world. It changes the game. That's what we need out of Kayla. She knows it, and it's a big weight off her shoulders. I'm happy for her. She worked hard tonight."
Much like their season opening win at East Carolina when Maria Petroni scored with 58 seconds left, the Gamecocks had a senior add the finishing punch in the final minute as play when Holland scored courtesy of assists by Rhoades and Petroni with 40 seconds remaining in the match.
South Carolina hits the road again next week when the team competes at the Carolina Cup in Clemson, S.C. The rivalry game between the Gamecocks and Tigers will be played Friday at 7:30 p.m., and South Carolina will play UNC Wilmington Sunday at noon.