Aug. 10, 2005
Columbia, S.C. - The 2005 South Carolina women's soccer team opened up its fall season with the first day of practice on Wednesday morning. The Gamecocks are practicing three times each day leading up to their first exhibition match on Monday, Aug. 15 when Carolina hosts Davidson at 6 p.m. at Stone Stadium. With three different training sessions, USC is eager to get back on the field and prepare for the regular season that begins in less than three weeks.
"Our goals in the first week of practice are to see where our new talent will fit in, where we can play players, and notice how players have returned from a summer being away," said USC head coach Shelley Smith. "We like to see where their intensity level is on the field, just to try to get them to be competitive with each other and set the tone from the start. If they can challenge each other on the field, that is going to prepare us well for the game."
Coach Smith noticed several sparks on the first day with the team anxious to bounce back from an 8-10-2 record last year. With 18 returning letterwinners and the addition of eight newcomers, South Carolina is ready to get a new season started as soon as possible.
"This morning every one was on their toes and ready to go," said Coach Smith. "The team was very enthusiastic and excited to play. They showed that from warm-up to cool down."
"Everyone was very excited and this is the first time it felt like every player was fired and up and ready to go on the first day," said senior co-captain Kimmy Criss.
Carolina's morning practice was highlighted by several small-sided games that featured both 1v1 and 2v2's. Coach Smith noted that the smaller sided games in the morning adds competitive fire and starts the day off on the right foot with the afternoon sessions focusing more on positions and more players on the field and the evening session devoted to fitness.
"I think it helps and gets each player extremely aggressive and that goes through the entire practice," said Criss. "We have a very aggressive and determined team."
"No one really wants to lose in those drills," added sophomore Kimmy Gillespie. "The 1v1's are good to get us started."
Freshman Kim Boulos indicated that the training from the small-sided drills carries over into the season and in a match environment.
"I think in the games we can build off these morning sessions and understand the 1v1 and 2v2 situations when we are in a game and a win or a loss is at stake," said Boulos."
The spirited attitude has opened the eyes of the coaching staff. With each player competing for time and spots on the field, signs are positive that the Gamecocks will be a team to reckon with throughout the year.
"Before our first exhibition with Davidson we want to see who our best 11 are and where are returning players will be best suited," said Coach Smith. "The freshmen class has been a good surprise. They are ready to start right away. It has been a competitive environment."
With 10 of 11 starters returning and the addition of eight newcomers, the Gamecocks have bonded and come together with goals of returning to the SEC & NCAA Tournament.
"We all just love the game, want to play and do well," said Boulos. "We (freshman) met the team last year, got a chance to talk a lot and we know what we want to accomplish together."
South Carolina's exhibition with Davidson next Monday evening is the first of two exhibition matches for the Gamecocks. USC will travel to Durham, N.C. and compete against Duke on Saturday, Aug. 20 before beginning the regular season on Friday, Aug. 26 when Carolina hosts Mercer at 7 p.m. at Stone Stadium.
"We've had a lot of players work real hard since last year," said Gillespie. "As we continue to work going into this season, I think things will fall into place better than they did a year ago."
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