Nov. 7, 2007
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The South Carolina women's soccer team defeated third seed Tennessee, 2-0, for the first time in school history to win the first SEC Tournament game in South Carolina history. Darcel Mollon scored the game-winner in the ninth minute and Mary Worthen scored her first goal of the season in the 71st to give Carolina the historic victory. Senior Laura Armstrong recorded the shutout and is now tied for first on the all-time goaltending list with 15 career shutouts.
South Carolina (14-5-2) entered the tournament as the sixth seed and improves to 10-0 when leading at the half. Tennessee falls to 13-4-2 overall. The Gamecocks improve to 1-11-2 all-time against Tennessee. It is the first time the Lady Vols have lost an opening round SEC Tournament game since 2001.
"Obviously going in that can cross your mind that it hasn't happened before," head coach Shelley Smith said. "(Tennessee is) a seasoned team as far as SEC play goes and postseason play. We had a lot to prove. We knew we had talent to go a long way this year. Going into the beginning of the season against North Carolina, that's the same mentality we faced going into the SEC season that if we compete we'll get results."
The Gamecocks advanced to the semifinals last season after tying Vanderbilt 1-1 in regulation and scoring a 4-3 edge in penalty kicks. That match officially counts as a draw.
Armstrong finished with five saves to record her seventh shutout of the season, tying the school record set by Elise Matthews in 2003. It was the 12th shutout of the season for the Gamecocks.
"Laura had a great game," Smith said. "Both her and Lindsay Thorstenson have been solid for us all year long. To shut out a team like Tennessee with their strength in the attack and having the offensive player of the year in Kylee Rossi, it shows our defense in front of Laura was solid. It was a team defensive effort and Laura came up big when we weren't able to stop the shot."
The Gamecocks attacked early with Erin Sullivan getting the game's first shot in the fifth minute, an open look from the 18' that was saved by first team All-SEC goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson. Three minutes later the Gamecocks went on the board following a long ball played by South Carolina goalkeeper Laura Armstrong. The ball landed to Bigbie in the attacking third, and she played it to Mollon on the right side of the field for the early score.
Carolina didn't let up afterwards as Ashley Kirk followed with a striking shot a minute later that was again saved by Johnson. Sullivan recorded her second shot of the game in the 11th minute before the two teams coasted into halftime with Carolina on top 1-0. The Gamecocks held an 8-5 shot advantage at the break with five of Carolina's shots hitting the mark.
The Lady Vols threatened to tie the game in the 54th minute with a shot by SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kylee Rossi striking a shot from 20 yards out that was saved by a diving Armstrong. Rossi had another attempt in the 58th minute with an open angle from the right side, but Courtney Cobbs and Blakely Mattern deflected her cross to end the threat.
Shannon Bigbie came close to scoring the insurance goal in 63rd with a strike that hit the crossbar. It wasn't until Worthen scored a header off of a Brittiny Rhoades free kick that Carolina was able to take the 2-0 cushion for the victory. Carolina ended with a 12-11 shot advantage and recorded two corner kicks to Tennessee's four.
"It's a tremendous team effort all around, and with so many seniors in the program I'm happy for them," Smith said. "It gets us one step closer to another goal of winning an SEC championship before they graduate."
South Carolina will face No. 2 seed Georgia in Friday's semifinal match at 5 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Ole Miss 2-0 in game one. The winner of the South Carolina-Georgia game will advance to the championship game Sunday at 2:30 p.m. That match will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net.
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