No. 14 Gamecocks Drop First SEC Match, 1-0
Oct. 15, 2010
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By Miquel Jacobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 14 South Carolina's seven-match unbeaten streak came to an end Friday night as the Gamecocks (11-3-2, 5-1-1 SEC) dropped a 1-0 decision to No. 20 Georgia (9-2-4, 4-0-3 SEC) at Stone Stadium. Despite the loss, South Carolina remains atop the SEC standings with 16 points courtesy of a tiebreaker with Florida.
The match was the first for South Carolina without injured senior forward Brooke Jacobs (6 goals, 4 assists, 16 points) since she missed a start against Western Carolina in 2008. Jacobs has only missed two games since the 2008 season - a span of 62 games for Carolina - with the Gamecocks dropping both of those contests by identical 1-0 scores.
"It definitely makes a difference," South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said of missing Jacobs Friday night, who had four goals in South Carolina's last three games. "It's a test for us that we need to be better at and step up. Players are going to be injured, and we need to make sure we step up and play no matter. Brooke's getting better and we look forward to having her back. It's going to make a difference for us for sure, but regardless we need to play as a team, bring that urgency and bring our `A' game."
Georgia freshman Alexa Newfield scored the game's lone goal just 3:13 into the match with a rocket from the top of the '18 after making her way through the Gamecock defense. The goal was all the Bulldogs would need despite the Gamecocks holding a 13-9 edge in shots (6-4 shots on goal). Georgia is the eighth consecutive team that South Carolina's backline has limited to four shots on goal or less, including all seven SEC opponents this year, but for the first time since the conference opener South Carolina was not able to get the ball across the frame. The Gamecocks outscored SEC opponents 20-3 in the last five games.
"We didn't get out," Smith said of the early goal. "(Newfield's) a great player. She's one of their best players. We knew she was going to be a threat. It was not a good job by us defensively. We have to win balls in the middle and keep the play in front of us."
Georgia may have scored in the early going, but it was actually South Carolina who had the first look on goal in the match. Just 45 seconds into the match, junior defender Ellen Fahey's free kick from near midfield took a high bounce over Bulldog goalkeeper Ashley Baker and scuttled towards the back of the net. Baker, an England national team member, was able to turn around and recover from her mistake, parrying the ball into the crossbar for an awkward bounce over the goal to keep her remarkable shutout streak alive.
Newfield's goal came just over two minutes later when she drove down the left sideline and into the center of the pitch before one-timing a shot past South Carolina's Mollie Patton for the early goal. South Carolina, who finished the game with a near 70-30 split in possession, then continued to test Baker with multiple looks. In the 24th, Danielle Au's shot off a corner kick was saved. One minute later, freshman midfielder Elizabeth Sinclair propelled a bullet of a header off another corner kick that Baker dove towards for the spectacular save.
Junior forward Kayla Grimsley sent a two-tap volley towards the net in the 34th before the Bulldogs put together two shots in succession that threatened to double the Gamecock deficit. Rebekah Perry's shot from 30 yards out was saved by Patton, and the follow-up by Alex Hooker two yards from the net was also saved by Patton.
Au gave Carolina two strong looks in the second half, the first coming in the 78th when she was pulled down just outside the '18 for a Carolina free kick. Grimsley's attempt missed the upper corner of the crossbar by inches to keep the game 1-0. Lolly Holland's pass to Au in the 83rd beat the defense for Carolina's last look on goal, but Au's strike just missed the far netting.
South Carolina returns to action Sunday afternoon for a nationally televised tilt against Tennessee at 3 p.m. The game between the Gamecocks and Lady Vols will air live on ESPNU.