Oct. 23, 2016
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — South Carolina women's soccer captured the SEC Regular-Season title after topping Tennessee 2-0 at Regal Soccer Stadium Sunday behind a pair of second-half goals from junior forward Savannah McCaskill. With the victory, the No. 2 Gamecocks (16-0-1, 10-0-0 SEC) pushed their school-record winning streak to 16 matches and remained unbeaten on the season. The Volunteers fell to 10-7-1 overall and 5-4-1 in league play with the loss. After securing a share of the championship, Carolina claimed the outright title following No. 11 Auburn's loss to Texas A&M Sunday night.
The win over Tennessee gave the Gamecocks the program's third SEC Championship and first since 2011. Carolina won the SEC Tournament in 2009 before claiming the league's 2011 regular-season title. The Gamecocks have won all 10 of its SEC matches this season, outscoring opponents 20-3 in conference play.
Carolina's goal in the 48th minute was set up by two great passes in the attacking third. Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan created the scoring chance, slipping a pass to junior defender Anna Conklin near the left side of the box. Conklin quickly gathered the ball and sent in a cross that connected with McCaskill, who headed home the goal to put the Gamecocks in front 1-0.
Another series of nice passes pushed the advantage to two and gave McCaskill her second goal of the match in the 63rd minute. Junior midfielder Dominique Babbitt's pass hit forward Sophie Groff in stride, and the senior located McCaskill in the box with just the keeper to beat. McCaskill took one dribble before calmly depositing the ball into the net past Tennessee goalkeeper Jamie Simmons to make it 2-0.
McCaskill nearly notched her second hat trick of the season after Drennan fed her on the break in the 76th minute. The forward received the pass and raced into the box before firing a blistering shot that required a diving save from Simmons. The Chapin, S.C., native finished the match with six shots and three attempts on frame.
Both of South Carolina's quality scoring chances in the first half came in the opening 20 minutes, with each play involving McCaskill and Groff. In the fourth minute, Groff found a streaking McCaskill on the counter attack, and the junior charged towards net before a sliding tackle from a Tennessee defender cleared the ball away. Thirteen minutes later, McCaskill sent in a cross from the right side that found Groff inside the box. Groff made a couple of nice moves to free herself from multiple defenders and fired a close-range shot that missed just right.
South Carolina boasted a 14-7 shot advantage for the match and finished the contest with three corners. Gamecock freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski collected four saves to tally her eighth shutout of the season and move to 13-0-1. Carolina's win marked its fourth-straight road victory over Tennessee.
"We're so excited to be in this position and still be in control of winning the championship outright. We want to finish the season off with a bang and a win on Thursday. The team has battled all season, and they're deserving of this for sure. They have found ways to win against difficult opponents, and they deserve this championship."-- South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
Forward Savannah McCaskill's second goal of the match in the 63rd minute put South Carolina in firm control. The junior's 13 goals in 2016 are tied with Florida's Savannah Jordan for the most among SEC players.
After allowing three shots on goal in the first half, the Gamecock defense clamped down and held the Volunteers to just one attempt on frame over the final 45 minutes.
South Carolina rounds out the regular season on Thur., Oct. 27, when it plays host to Ole Miss at Stone Stadium. It will be Senior Night for the Gamecocks, who will honor nine players prior to the contest against the Rebels. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the match will air on SEC Network.
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