Sept. 7, 2017
#7 Women's Soccer at #4 Clemson
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 7 South Carolina women’s soccer (5-1-0) is set for a top-10 battle on the road against in-state rival and No. 4-ranked Clemson (6-0-0) on Fri., Sept. 8. Kickoff from Riggs Field is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on ACC Network Extra through WatchESPN. This week’s contest marks the firs time in history the two rivals will face one another with both teams ranked inside the top-10. A point in the Palmetto Series will also be up for grabs when the Tigers and Gamecocks hit the field.
FROM THE COACH
“This is always a big rivalry. It’s exciting this year to have two teams both in the top-10. It’s a match-up for the whole country to watch. This is what the non-conference schedule is all about – getting these challenges. The environment is always exciting. We always approach it as a big game, and we understand there are going to be extra emotions on both sides. We treat it as another chance to play a top opponent.” – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Clemson’s defense has sparked its strong start to the season, as the Tigers have allowed just one goal over their first six matches of 2017. The team’s 0.163 goals against average ranks second in the ACC and ninth in NCAA Division I, and its 0.833 shutout percentage is good for the sixth-best mark nationally. The Tigers are 2-0 at home on the year, earning victories over No. 20 Auburn (2-1, Aug. 25) and VCU (1-0, Sept. 1).
Graduate transfer midfielder Jenna Polonsky leads the Tiger attack with 11 points on four goals and three assists, while freshman forward Mariana Speckmaier senior midfielder Jeni Erickson mark the two other Clemson players with at least three goals this season. Sophomores Melanie Stiles and Sandy Maclver have split time in net this year for a Tiger team that hasn’t conceded a goal in the last 318 minutes of game action.
South Carolina has gone 6-3-1 over its last 10 matches against Clemson, including a 2-1 win over the then-No. 6 Tigers last fall at Stone Stadium. Each of the last six contests between the two have been decided by one goal or less, and Clemson leads the all-time series with a mark of 13-9-1.
South Carolina boasted a perfect showing at the Notre Dame Invitational this past weekend after notching victories over Notre Dame (Sept. 1) and No. 23 Michigan (Sept. 3) in South Bend, Ind. The Gamecocks moved past the host Irish 1-0 in overtime last Friday when freshman Ryan Gareis collected a through ball from senior striker Savannah McCaskill and scored a short-range goal to deliver the victory. The game-winning tally marked the first goal for the midfielder, who put two shots on frame in the match.
On Sunday, Gamecock freshman midfielder Bianca Galassini netted two second-half goals in six minutes to spark a 2-1 come-from-behind victory for Carolina. Both tallies came from inside the box, and the game-winner came in the 60th minute after Galassini took advantage of a poor clearance from the Wolverines and chipped the ball into the right side of the net.
BACK IN THE TOP-10
South Carolina climbed four spots to No. 7 in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll, which was released on Tuesday. The Gamecocks, who spent the first two weeks of 2017 ranked inside the top-five, have been positioned in the top-15 in each of the poll’s last 15 installments dating back to last season. They have earned a top-10 ranking 12 times over that stretch, and Carolina entered the fall with the program’s highest preseason spot after being listed at No. 4 in August.
SOUTH CAROLINA AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS
South Carolina sports an all-time mark of 28-57-12 against ranked opponents. The Gamecocks boasted a program single-season record five victories over top-25 foes in 2016, defeating No. 6 Clemson (2-1), No. 11 Arkansas (3-1), No. 17 Florida (1-0), No. 20 Colorado (1-0) and No. 4 BYU (1-0). Carolina has won three of its last four matches against top-five opponents, notching wins over No. 4 Florida (2014) and No. 4 Texas A&M (2015) before moving past the fourth-ranked Cougars in the 2016 NCAA Tournament last year.
The Gamecocks sport a 17-game winning streak in matches played in September in a stretch that dates back to 2015. Seven of those victories have come on the road, and 10 of the wins have come by two goals or more.
Carolina’s freshman class has made an instant impact on the Gamecock attack, accounting for six of the team’s 12 goals in 2017. A freshman has notched the game-winner in each of South Carolina’s last three victories, and six first-year players have recorded a point this fall. Freshman midfielder Breukelen Woodard ranks second on the team with two assists, while midfielder Bianca Galassini’s two goals and four points sit as the third-best mark among Gamecocks.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Carolina’s five victories this season have came from game-winners from five different players. Gamecock senior striker Savannah McCaskill, sophomore forward Elexa Bahr, freshman midfielder Bianca Galassini and first-year attackers Ryan Gareis and Luciana Zullo have all registered game-winning tallies in 2017 for a Gamecock team that had seven plays net a game-winner all of last year,
MCCASKILL’S MARCH TOWARDS 100
With an assist against Notre Dame this past Friday, Carolina forward Savannah McCaskill moved one point shy of 100 for her career. Her 99 points, which rank third all-time among Gamecocks, sit 20 away from the all-time school record. McCaskill has led Carolina in points in each of her first three seasons, and her 45 points as a junior in 2016 marked a single-year school record.
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