COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina opens conference play this weekend when Mississippi State and No. 21 Missouri visit Stone Stadium in the first year of the new 14-team SEC. The Gamecocks and undefeated Bulldogs will kickoff Friday at 7 p.m. before South Carolina welcomes nationally-ranked Missouri on Sunday for a match that will broadcast live on ESPNU at 2 p.m.
Friday night's match will be the 14th in the series between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs with South Carolina currently in the midst of a six-match unbeaten streak against Mississippi State. However, the Bulldogs have proven unstoppable in the non-conference season and are one of seven teams remaining in the country with a perfect record.
Sunday's nationally-televised meeting marks the first game between the South Carolina and Missouri. The "Battle of the Columbia's" marks the start of a new rivalry with Mizzou joining the SEC's eastern division this season after spending its entire history in the Big 12 from 1996 to 2011
Fans can park in the Athletics Village Parking Garage adjacent to Stone Stadium on Heyward Street. Season Tickets for the 2012 season are currently on sale. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $10 for youth. They can be purchased at GamecocksOnline.com or by calling (800) 4SC-FANS.
ON THE HORIZON
South Carolina hits the road for the first time in a month with a trip west to take on No. 10 Texas A&M and Arkansas. The match against the Aggies will be the first SEC conference game at Ellis Field for new addition Texas A&M.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
Mississippi State brings a perfect 7-0-0 record into Stone Stadium with an offense that is averaging over 23 shots per game and has outscored opponents 19-3 on the year. Leading the charge is true freshman Honeye Heydari (5g, 4a, 14p) and junior Elisabeth Sullivan (5g, 3a, 13p). Two Bulldogs - Dana Forbes and Morganne Grimes - have collected four assists on the season, and a total of 15 players have registered at least one point so far this season for Mississippi State. Redshirt senior Skylar Rosson returns for another season in goal and has begun strong with four shutouts and a 0.44 goals against average.
Missouri enters the weekend with a 5-1-0 record and a No. 21 national ranking after rolling through a non-conference season that included victories over No. 11 Memphis (5-1) and No. 15 California (3-2). The Tigers suffered their first loss last Thursday at Ohio State. Heading into their first SEC season, the Tigers are led by senior Taiwo Adeshigbin's four goals and nine points along with senior Haley Kretnz's league-high five assists. Sophomore McKenzie Sauerwin sports a 0.83 goals against average with two shutouts on the year.
Defense has been the calling card for Shelley Smith's Gamecocks, and the 2012 season shows early signs of continuing that character trait despite the lack of depth at the position due to various injuries. South Carolina has posted four shutouts in its six games this season, and the team sports a 0.46 goals against average after allowing only three goals so far this season.
The Gamecock defense ranks No. 22 in the NCAA in goals against average and No. 16 in the NCAA with a 0.667 shutout percentage.
Freshman Courtney Angotti-Smith has been a sparkplug for the Gamecock offense off the bench with two goals and three assists in four career matches played after missing the opening weekend (injury). The Goose Creek native ranks fourth in the SEC in assists per game (0.75) and seventh in points per game (1.75), numbers that rank 11th and 47th in the country, respectively.
YOUTH IN REVOLT
South Carolina lost 70 percent of its scoring from last season, and the natural question coming into 2012 was where would the goals come from. If the non-conference season was any indication, the freshman class has no problem taking up that challenge with the quartet of Coryn Bajema, Courtney Angotti-Smith, Stevi Parker and Raina Johnson tallying seven of South Carolina's nine goals thus far. The other two scores have come from a sophomore (Lani Smith) and a redshirt junior (Rae Wilson).
CAROLINA VS THE SEC WEST
South Carolina historically has enjoyed greater success against SEC West foes than SEC East foes by the surprising note that the Gamecocks hold the series advantage against all six SEC West schools (not including newly added Texas A&M) but does not have the advantage against any of the SEC East schools. The Gamecocks are 50-21-13 (.673) all-time against the West with series' against Alabama (10-4-0), Arkansas (9-3-1), Auburn (7-5-3), LSU (8-2-5), Ole Miss (8-3-2) and Mississippi State (7-4-2). In contrast, South Carolina is 21-66-10 (.268) against SEC East schools.
ANGOTTI-SMITH NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Freshman Courtney Angotti-Smith was named the SEC Freshman of the Week after her two-goal performance against East Carolina. Angotti-Smith came off the bench in the 23rd minute as an attacking midfielder and scored 79 seconds after subbing in for her first career collegiate goal. She also scored the final goal of the day in the 70th minute.
MORE ON THE BACKLINE
South Carolina ranks second in the SEC in allowing only 48 shots and 17 shots on goal through six matches, stats that undoubtedly were helped after holding East Carolina to only two shots and no shots on goal in Sunday's non-conference finale. The two shots allowed against ECU were the fewest by a team since the Gamecocks held Ole Miss to only one shot in a 3-0 victory on October 1, 2010. That match was also the last time the Gamecocks held an opponent without a single shot on frame.
Three of South Carolina's six matches so far this season have gone to overtime, and the Gamecocks are 0-2-1 in those fixtures. Both of Carolina's losses this season have come in extra time (Minnesota 2-1, Clemson 1-0) as Shelley Smith's team has been able to stay ahead or on even ground in every regulation match this season. However, after keeping the opponent at bay through 90 minutes in each match, the Gamecocks have yet to notch a golden goal, something that was not a problem in 2011 when South Carolina went 3-1-0 in overtime matches.
Junior Danielle Au entered 2012 as the leading returning scorer for the Gamecocks, but it took Au six matches to hit the scorebook with opposing defenses keying on the her as the only experienced attacker on the Gamecock squad. Au registered her first point of the year assisting on Raina Johnson's goal in the 62nd minute against East Carolina.
HOME AT THE STONE
South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past five seasons, posting a 49-10-6 record at home since 2006. The streak included a 15-game unbeaten streak from Aug. 31, 2006-Oct. 5, 2007 and a 13-game unbeaten streak at "The Graveyard" from Oct. 19, 2007-Oct. 23, 2008. The lone blemishes on the record are a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt (Oct. 7, 2007), a loss to #7 Florida (Oct. 30, 2008), two thrillers against #14/13 Wake Forest (2009 and 2011) and losses to Louisville, Kentucky, #23 Minnesota, #20 Georgia, #8 Florida and Clemson.
GAMECOCKS ON TV
South Carolina will appear on a TV a minimum of four times in 2012 with at least one of those games occurring on national TV, marking the sixth consecutive season that Carolina will play in front of a national audience. Carolina's home matches against Missouri (Sept. 16) and Florida (Oct. 25) will air live on ESPNU and SUN Sports, respectively, and away matches at Vanderbilt (Sept. 30) and Kentucky (Oct. 19) will air on CSS and SportSouth.
The Gamecocks were a perfect 3-0-0 last season in televised games, outscoring opponents 8-2 in those contests.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Eleven of 18 eligible healthy field players have scored a point for the Gamecocks at this point of the season, with 10 of those 11 having contributed at least one of South Carolina's 13 assists. Six players have combined to score South Carolina's nine goals this season.