Sept. 26, 2012
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Sean Cartell (@SEC_Sean) of the SEC profiles former Gamecock All-American and current volunteer assistant coach Blakely Mattern in the latest 'SEC Soccer At 20' feature celebrating 20 years of the greatest moments and athletes in SEC women's soccer history.
By: Sean Cartell
That South Carolina's rise to collegiate soccer's elite and the career of Blakely Mattern in a Gamecock uniform happened concurrently was no coincidence.
Mattern, a native of Simpsonville, S.C., who led the state in goals scored (39) her senior season at JL Mann High School, was looking for the opportunity to remain close to home and, at the same time, help build a program.
"When I came on my visit here, I just felt right away that there was something different about this place, from the team to the school to the soccer, in terms of the way [South Carolina head coach] Shelley [Smith] and [associate head coach] Jamie [Smith] ran the program and their vision for it. The fact that the program wasn't necessarily where it is today, I knew I could come in and have the chance to build a program and make something happen. I wanted to help make a difference."
It just so happened that South Carolina coach Shelley Smith thought the conditions were right to take her program to the next level. She sold Mattern on a clearly defined vision of success.
"We had a program that hadn't been very successful in the SEC and we knew with a couple of additions like Blakely, we could turn things around," Smith said. "A piece we were missing was her defense; with her and a couple of others in her class, we knew we had some players that could help us continue to grow as a program. We wanted to continue to work hard to make sure she had a successful career."
The vision was one that Mattern was confident she could help bring to reality ... (and) what Mattern was able to help South Carolina do was nothing short of remarkable.
To read Sean Cartell's full story on Blakely Mattern and the rise of the South Carolina women's soccer program, visit the SEC Digital Network at: http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/tabid/473/article/237316/SEC-Soccer-At-20-Blakely-Mattern.aspx.
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