Sept. 14, 2017
#3 Women's Soccer vs. Alabama
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 3 South Carolina women's soccer (6-1-0) opens SEC play this week when it welcomes Alabama (7-1-0) to Stone Stadium on Fri., Sept. 15. Kickoff against the Crimson Tide is slated for 7 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN. The Gamecocks enter league play as the defending champions after capturing the 2016 SEC Regular-Season Title with a conference mark of 11-0-0.
South Carolina soccer matches are included in the Athletics Department's clear bag policy for all ticketed athletics events in a move designed to provide a safer environment and more expedited entry for fans. The policy will limit the size and type of bags that may be brought into South Carolina Athletics events. Information on the Clear Bag Policy and other Game Day Policies can be found online.
FROM THE COACH
"We know the SEC is always difficult, whether you're home or away. Alabama has done a great job in their non-conference season. We're excited to host them and have a good match in the SEC. We need to be ready to move the ball. At the end of the day, we have to do our job -- put the ball in the back of the net and be smart defensively." -- South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
The Crimson Tide enter Friday's match on a five-game winning streak that began with a 1-0 victory over then-No. 6 Florida State on Aug. 27. Alabama sports a mark of 2-0 in true road contests this season, and Friday will be its second contest against a ranked opponent in 2017.
Junior midfielder Emma Welch leads the Crimson Tide in points (9) and assists (5), while junior forward Abbie Boswell and freshman midfielder Taylor Morgan are tied for the team lead with three goals. Welch's five assists rank second in the SEC and 10th among NCAA Division I players for an Alabama team that is 22nd nationally in assists per match (0.63). Senior Kat Stratton, who has played all 723 minutes in net for the Crimson Tide this season, heads into this week's contest with 25 saves and three shutouts on the year.
Carolina boasts an all-time record of 13-4-1 in the series between the two schools. The Gamecocks are unbeaten (3-0-1) in their last four matches against the Crimson Tide, and this week will be their first meeting against Alabama since they earned a 3-0 home victory back on Sept. 27, 2015. Carolina is 8-1-0 all-time in home games in the series.
LAST TIME OUT
South Carolina topped in-state rival and then-No. 4 Clemson 1-0 this past Friday (Sept. 8) behind a goal from sophomore forward Elexa Bahr in the 17th minute. Gamecock senior striker Savannah McCaskill set up the tally, feeding a well-placed through ball to Bahr near the top of the box. Bahr collected the pass before converting from short range to put Carolina in front 1-0 less than 20 minutes into the match.
Sophomore goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski notched five saves en route to her fourth shutout of the season. Four of her five stops came in the first half for a Gamecock team that limited the Tigers to just one attempt on goal over the final 45 minutes. Last week's victory improved Carolina's mark to 6-3-1 over its last 10 matches against Clemson. The win also gave the Gamecocks their fourth win in their last five matches against top-five opponents in a stretch that dates back to 2014.
MOVING ON UP
South Carolina continued to climb the United Soccer Coaches Poll after claiming the No. 3 spot in the organization's latest ranking. The Gamecocks, who were listed at No. 7 last week, returned to the top-five for the third time this season following their victory over the Tigers. Carolina has been positioned in the top-15 in each of the last 16 installments of the poll dating back to last season. The Gamecocks have earned a top-10 ranking 13 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 IN SEC OPENERS
The Gamecocks sport an all-time mark of 10-10-2 in SEC openers dating back to 1995. South Carolina is 6-6-1 when opening conference play at home, and it has won each of its last three league openers. Friday will mark the second-straight season the Gamecocks will open conference action at home.
SMITH'S PURSUIT OF WIN NUMBER 250
South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith enters Friday's game one win shy of 250 for her career. Smith, who notched her 200th victory at South Carolina last fall in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, became coach of the Gamecocks in 2001 after amassing 41 wins during her four years at Rhode Island. The 2016 SEC Coach of the Year has led Carolina to 12 double-digit win seasons during her time in Columbia.
The Gamecocks sport a 18-game winning streak in matches played in September in a stretch that dates back to 2015. Ten of those victories have been by two or more goals.
MCCASKILL HITS THE CENTURY MARK
With her assist against Clemson this past Friday, Carolina forward Savannah McCaskill reached 100 points for her career. The Chapin, S.C., native became the third player in school history to hit the century mark, joining Kayla Grimsley (2008-11) and Jennie Ondo (1996-99). 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.
Carolina's freshman class has made an instant impact on the Gamecock attack, accounting for six of the team's 13 goals in 2017. A freshman has notched the game-winner in three of South Carolina's last four 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.
The Gamecocks continue SEC play next week when they face Kentucky on the road on Thu., Sept. 21. Kickoff from Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
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