Sept. 27, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina continues its road trip this weekend with visits to Auburn and Vanderbilt after going 0-1-1 on an SEC West trip last weekend. The Gamecocks and Tigers will kickoff Friday at 8 p.m. (ET), and the match at Vanderbilt will air live on CSS/ESPN3 Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET).
The Gamecocks are in search of their first SEC victory after drawing Arkansas, 1-1, in the team's last outing. Junior Danielle Au scored her first goal of the season against the Razorbacks and will look to guide the Gamecock offense into a strong weekend on the road.
ON THE HORIZON
South Carolina returns home to take on SEC East rivals Tennessee and Georgia at Stone Stadium. The Lady Vols visit Friday at 7 p.m., and the Bulldogs come to town Sunday at 1 p.m.
Auburn enters the weekend with a 5-6-0 record and are 1-3-0 in conference play with a win at LSU. The Tigers are led by senior goalkeeper Amy Howard who sports a 1.26 goals against average with two shutouts. Howard is just 22 saves shy of the all-time Auburn record. Sophomore Tatiana Coleman leads the team in scoring with nine points (2g, 5a), and classmate Tori Ball is the team-leader with four goals on the season.
Vanderbilt holds an even record of 4-4-3 (1-1-2 SEC) into the weekend and are led by freshman Cheyna Williams's four goals and five assists for 13 points. The Commodores have a 4-2 victory over Mississippi State and draws at Georgia and Tennessee to their credit under second-year head coach Derek Greene. Sophomore Alexa Levick holds a 1.15 goals against average to go with three shutouts and 49 saves.
Defense has been the calling card for Shelley Smith's Gamecocks, and the 2012 squad has proven to be one that will continue that character trait despite the lack of depth at the position due to various injuries. South Carolina has posted five shutouts in its 10 games this season, and the team sports a 0.54 goals against average after allowing only seven goals so far this season.
The Gamecock defense ranks 30th in the NCAA in goals against average, No. 33 in shutout percentage (0.500) and 35th in save percentage (.851).
Five of South Carolina's 10 matches so far this season have gone to overtime, and the Gamecocks are 0-2-3 in those fixtures. The team is one shy of the program-record six overtime matches set in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Two of Carolina's four losses this season have come in extra time (Minnesota 2-1, Clemson 1-0) while 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.
Shelley Smith is dealing with a squad decimated by injuries for the first time since the 2006 team was forced to deal with mass knocks. The 2012 Gamecocks have already lost two players for the season (Emily Bollinger, Bay Daniel) and have had 11 other players - including five of the six returning starters - miss time or leave games this season due to injury. Only 10 dedicated field players have been without injury - four mids, four forwards and two defenders.
AU HITS THE BOARD
Junior Danielle Au endured nine matches this season before hitting her first goal of the year in the 70th minute at Arkansas. South Carolina's leading returning scorer from last season, Au has been plugged as the striker and attacking center mid for the Gamecocks this year and will hope that the breakthrough at Arkansas will open the floodgates for the rest of the SEC season.
ALI ALI OXEN FREE
Sophomore Ali Whitney has had a tough go the past 12 months after a promising freshman year ended with a season-ending injury at Ole Miss last fall and a recurring injury keeping her sidelined for all but four matches this season. However, Whitney has made the most of her comeback despite moving from her starting leftback position last season to a left winger role this year. Gifted with the ability to take long throw-ins thanks to her swimming background, Whitney notched her first assist of the season at Arkansas in her most extensive action of the year.
GILBERT REMAINS FLEXIBLE
Junior Gabrielle Gilbert has been the version of a utility player for South Carolina, starting matches at defender and forward in her career. The Canadian began her career on the backline, starting her first career match at right back, but earned the starting right wing spot the first eight matches of the 2012 season. With injuries forcing a change in philosophy, Gilbert has once again moved to the backline where she has started the past two matches at right back. Gilbert currently has contributed two assists, second-most on the team.