No. 5 Gamecock Soccer Travels For Tough SEC East Road Weekend
Oct. 15, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 5 South Carolina faces its toughest stretch of the season with four of its final five games on the road, beginning with this weekend's SEC East rival weekend with No. 23 Georgia and Tennessee.
The unbeaten Gamecocks (13-0-1, 5-0-1 SEC) will take on the Bulldogs Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Soccer Stadium in search of the program's first win against Georgia since the 2006 season. The team then travels to Regal Stadium in Knoxville for a Sunday afternoon game against Tennessee (7-5-2, 3-2-1 SEC) at 2 p.m.
Since winning back-to-back games against Georgia in the 1998 and 1999 seasons, South Carolina is 1-9-2 against the Bulldogs this decade. The teams played to a 1-1 draw last year at Stone Stadium before Georgia won the SEC Tournament first round match.
The Lady Vols hold an 11-2-2 series advantage against South Carolina, but the Gamecocks have won the past two meetings after going winless in the first 13 matches between the teams.
ON THE HORIZON
The Gamecocks have a split weekend beginning with the home finale Thursday night against Arkansas at 7 p.m. Carolina will then travel to Baton Rouge, La., to face No. 17 LSU.
Georgia is once again one of the top teams in the SEC and enter Friday's match ranked No. 23 in the nation with only two losses on the year. The lone setbacks include losses to nationally-ranked LSU and Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are led by senior goalkeeper Michelle Betos who sports a 0.89 GAA with six shutouts. On offense, senior Carrie Patterson continues to amaze as one of the best players in Georgia history with six gols and four assists for 16 points. Sophomore Jamie Pollock also has six goals on the year.
Tennessee started the season rough but since then have earned draws against nationally-ranked Minnesota and Ole Miss. Strong-footed Mick Imgram leads the SEC with nine goals and also has an assist for 20 points. The senior can shoot from anywhere on the pitch, and with 58 shots has attempted over twice as many as any player on the Gamecock roster. Junior Molly Baird has earned time in goal after learning from All-American Jaimel Johnson the past two years and has a 0.95 GAA with six shutouts in her first year as a starter.
IN THE POLLS
South Carolina has earned a unanimous No. 5 ranking this week after polls from the NSCAA, Soccer America, and Soccer Times were released Tuesday. Also No. 6 in the first RPI report of the season, the rankings give Carolina a unanimous top 10 ranking for the third consecutive week.
LOWE'S SENIOR CLASS AWARD FINALIST Blakely Mattern NEEDS VOTES!
Senior defender Blakely Mattern has been named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, presented annually in eight NCAA Division 1 Sports to a senior student-athlete who excels both on and off the field. Candidates are chosen based on their dedication and achievement in four areas: Classroom, Character, Community and Competition. Fan voting will help decide the winner. Visit "www.seniorclassaward.com" or text "W6" to 74567 to vote for Mattern.
SENIOR CLASS SET THE BAR HIGH
The 2009 senior class will leave Columbia as the winningest senior class in program history. Entering weekend play, the group of seniors hold a 49-19-13 (.685) record, the most wins and best win-percentage for a South Carolina senior class. The group of seven has led Carolina to three consecutive SEC tournament appearances and two consecutive NCAA appearances.
South Carolina is currently tied for the national lead with 11 shutouts on the year and have allowed only three goals through the first 14 games of the season. Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton continues to hold the national lead in all three goalkeeping categories with 11 solo shutouts, a 0.14 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.
AT THE TOP OF THE NCAA LISTS
Noted as one of the top defensive teams in the country under Shelley Smith, South Carolina has continued that excellence this season and added a little offensive flair as well. The Gamecocks have the top defense in the NCAA with a 0.21 goals against average and 11 shutouts. The team is also No. 23 in scoring offense (2.36 goals/game). With that type of production, South Carolina is also at the top of the SEC lists in half of the statistical categories. The team leads the conference in goals allowed, goals against average, shutouts, shots allowed, shots on goal allowed, points allowed, assists, shot percentage and shot on goal percentage.
APPROACHING THE RECORD
Senior defender Blakely Mattern has started every game of her career, and with 81 career starts is currently tied for first all-time at South Carolina. She will surpass Ashley Kirk's record of 81 starts in Friday's match at Georgia. She, along with Samantha Diaz-Matosas and Kim Miller, could surpass the games played record of 83 on the Oct. 22 home finale against Arkansas.
PATTON GETS THE RECORD(S)
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton set a new South Carolina single-season shutout record when she grabbed her eighth shutout of the year in the win against Kentucky. She then set the career record in the next game at Ole Miss with her 16th shutout in 33 career games, surpassing the previous mark of 15 set by Laura Armstrong and Elise Matthews.
Senior Kim Miller has been one of the most consistent performers for South Carolina the past four years, and the New York native has stretched that consistency to another part of her game in her final season. Miller jumped up to 13th in the NCAA and first in the SEC with eight assists so far this season, and she set the South Carolina single-season record with her fourth assist on a game-winning goal in the Alabama game last Sunday. In a two-game stretch, Miller recorded assists on four consecutive goals for the Gamecocks.
MATTERN CONTINUES TO PICK UP NATIONAL HONORS
Senior defender Blakely Mattern continues to pick up honors in her final season as a Gamecock. A Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist, Mattern has been named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice, was selected to the Soccer America National Team of the Week three times, earned Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week honors once and has also earned CollegeSoccer360.com Primetime Player of the Week honors.