COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina takes on two in-state rivals this weekend as they host the Carolina's Cup at Stone Stadium from Sept. 5-7. The Gamecocks will take on Clemson in Friday's highlight match at 7:30 p.m. in a rematch of last season's 1-0 loss at Riggs Stadium. The first 350 fans at the match will receive free "Beat Clemson" t-shirt. The Gamecocks will then host Furman Sunday at 2 p.m.
Other matches scheduled for the tournament include Francis Marion-Furman (Friday at 5 p.m.) and Francis Marion-Clemson (Sunday at 11:30 a.m.). All persons wearing club apparel will receive $1 admission each day of the tournament, meaning that you can watch four games for $2 if you wear club apparel. All Gamecock fans are encouraged to wear Garnet.
South Carolina (2-0-1) is entering with a three-game unbeaten streak to begin the season. The Gamecocks have posted three consecutive shutouts to open the season with a scoreless tie at UNC-Wilmington and 1-0 wins against East Carolina and Boston University. This season marks the first time that the Gamecocks posted three shutouts to open a season as they have relied heavily on their SEC-leading defense with 14 freshmen on their roster of 28. The Gamecocks are led by junior defender Blakely Mattern (Simpsonville, S.C.) who earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. Redshirt-sophomore Mollie Patton currently leads the conference with three shutouts and zero goals allowed in 290:00 of play during her first season playing since high school.
The Tigers (3-0-0) are coming off an 8-0 win against UNC-Asheville Sunday under first year head coach Hershey Strosberg. Julie Bolt - who missed last year's South Carolina/Clemson match after receiving two yellow cards in the match prior - scored four goals against Asheville to be named the ACC Player of the Week.
Clemson leads the all-time series 10-3-0, but the Gamecocks have won the last two meetings at Stone Stadium. The winning team has posted a shutout in every match since 1999. This weekend marks only the third time that one of the two teams was not ranked heading into the match, matching the unranked battles in 2000, 2005 and 2006. Last season was the first time both teams entered with a national ranking as No. 20 Clemson defeated No. 7 Carolina.
NOTE: Due to construction on The Dodie Academic Enrichment Center, a large section of Heyward Street will be closed to traffic beginning immediately. Fans planning to attend upcoming men's and women's soccer events at Stone Stadium should be aware of this closure and seek an alternate route to parking lots surrounding the stadium.
ON THE HORIZON
South Carolina travels to Auburn, Ala., to compete in the Auburn Soccer Classic from Sept. 12-14. The Gamecocks will meet Marquette in Friday's match at 5:30 p.m. before taking on NCAA runner-up Florida State Sunday at noon. The Seminoles, currently ranked third in the nation and first in the Southeast region, return eight starters but lost Player of the Year Mami Yamaguchi.
A perennial NCAA Tournament team, Clemson was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team ACC Coaches Poll (Georgia Tech does not field a women's soccer team). The Tigers are under the guidance of first year head coach Hershey Strosberg, a former Virginia assistant in his first head coaching position. Clemson has run to a 3-0 start, most recently defeating UNC Asheville 8-0 on the feet of senior Julie Bolt's four goals. Opponents have yet to challange sophomore Paula Pritzen in goal, a first year starter taking over for graduated All-American Ashley Phillips.
2007 NCAA Tournament participant Furman enters with a 1-0-1 record with a defeat of Coastal Carolina and tie against Canisius. Picked to finish second in the SoCon, Furman is led by three preseason all-conference selections in Rachel Fry, Ashley Creavalle and Briana da Mota.
HOME AT THE STONE
South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past two seasons, posting a 17-1-3 record at home since 2006. The streak included a 15-game unbeaten streak from Aug. 31, 2006-Oct. 5, 2007. The lone blemish on the record was a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt (Oct. 7, 2007) when the Gamecocks surrendered a goal with nine seconds remaining in the game. Carolina recorded 14 shutouts during the stretch, six coming in the eight games in 2007.
NO SMALL FEAT
Junior midfielder Lindsay Small recorded not only her first career goal but also her first career points as she led Carolina to a 1-0 victory over Boston. Normally a defensive midfielder, Small fielded a cross from Kim Miller in the 56th minute and placed it in the near post from 12 yards out to hit the game-winning goal.
GRIMSLEY GRABS THE START
Heralded freshman Kayla Grimsley earned her first career start Sunday night against Boston. A flashy player with tremendous ability, Grimsley was named a Soccer Buzz Top 75 national recruit coming out of high school and was a three-time Florida High School Player of the Year.
Defense has been the calling card for coach Shelley Smith's teams and the 2008 season thus far looks to be no different. The Gamecocks have posted three consecutive shutouts to open the season, the first time a South Carolina team held opponents scoreless through the first three games. Led by starting defenders Brittiny Rhoades, Ellen Fahey, Blakely Mattern and Samantha Diaz-Matosas, the Gamecocks have limited opponents to only 17 shots and 11 shots on goal in three matches. The 290:00 shutout streak to begin the season for goalkeeper Mollie Patton is a first for Carolina keepers.