The Gamecocks hold a 7-2-0 record in SEC play with two matches remaining, and a victory over the Razorbacks will assure a top three finish in the overall SEC standings heading into next Friday's season finale.
ON THE HORIZON
The regular season ends next Friday night in Gainesville, Fla., with a match against the nationally-ranked Florida Gators. Kickoff is 7 p.m. and will air on FS Florida.
Arkansas enters the match with a 4-12-0 record and is looking for an upset after taking Florida to extra time Thursday night. The Razorbacks are led by senior Kailey Anders's four goals and two assists for 10 points, but Anders missed the last two games due to injury. Freshman Emily Lillard has started every match in goal and boasts a 2.52 goals against average with 100 saves.
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 but does not have the advantage against any of the SEC East schools. The Gamecocks are 49-20-13 (.677) all-time against the West with series' against Alabama (10-3-0), Arkansas (8-3-1), Auburn (7-5-3), LSU (8-2-5), Ole Miss (8-3-2) and Mississippi State (7-4-2). In contrast, South Carolina is 20-66-10 (.260) against SEC East schools.
GRIMSLEY HITS ANOTHER MILESTONE
Senior Kayla Grimsley became the second Gamecock to hit the 100-point milestone after scoring the first goal of the game at Georgia. Grimsley's goal at 33:22 gave her 101 points in her career, and she now has a stat line of 41 goals and 31 assists for 113 points in 90 career games.
Grimsley is the only active player in the SEC with over 100 career points and is tied for sixth on the NCAA active career points list. She's the only active player in the NCAA with 40 goals and 30 assists.
SOUTH CAROLINA STREAKING
Since dropping a 1-0 match to Kentucky on Sept. 30, South Carolina has been on a tear with a six-match winning streak in which they have outscored opponents 18-3. All but one of those wins have been by multiple goals, and in the other five the team scored at least three goals.
The current six-match winning streak in conference play is the longest in program history, surpassing the five straight SEC wins the team posted in 2010. It matches the program-best six-match unbeaten streaks done in both 2009 and 2010.
SENIOR CLASS SET THE BAR HIGH
The 2010 senior class left Columbia as the winningest senior class in program history, but the eight-member 2011 class can claim that distinction with another solid year. The Class of `10 held a 59-23-13 (.689) record, the most wins and best win-percentage for a South Carolina senior class and was the first to advance to the NCAA Tournament all four years. The Class of `11 currently claims a career record of 58-22-10 (.700) and has a chance to set the new record. The class is 17th in the nation and second in the SEC for total victories over the last four seasons.
WHITNEY FALLS TO INJURY
Freshman defender Ali Whitney went down at the start of the second half against Ole Miss to a leg injury that will have the starting left back out for the remainder of the regular season. She started 14 of her 17 games at left back and was a threat with her deep throw-ins and accurate corner kicks. At LSU, the team reorganized the backline in moving junior Dani Henry from right back to left back, moving freshman Christa Neary from center back to right back, and inserting freshman Andie Romness at center back alongside Ellen Fahey. Senior Ali Glemser and redshirt freshman Lauren Hyden are candidates to earn added minutes in Whitney's place.
SET PIECE SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks have seen a lot of their success this season come on set pieces off the play of freshman Ali Whitney and senior Kayla Grimsley in addition to freshman Andie Romness. Nine of South Carolina's 18 goals - half of the total - in their current six-match winning streak were the result of corner kicks, free kicks or throw-ins by the duo with Maria Petroni and Ariane Lukens both benefitting twice.
LUCK NOT NEEDED FOR LUKENS
Freshman Ariane Lukens picked a great night to score her first two career goals with a brace at LSU to propel South Carolina to a come-from-behind 4-1 victory. Lukens scored two straight goals on headers from corner kicks to put in the game-tying and game-winning goals in Carolina's eventual rout of their conference rival.
ROMNESS FILLS IN ACCURATELY
Freshman Andie Romness was called upon to perform Carolina's corner kicks and free kicks at LSU with classmate Ali Whitney missing the match due to injury, and the Virginia-native responded with accurate set pieces that led to two assists on the day. Romness connected with Ariane Lukens on the game-winning goal from a corner kick before booming a free kick from midfield that was headed in by Ellen Fahey.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Ten players have scored South Carolina's 33 goals this season, with five players scoring at least four on the year. Only three previous teams have at least five players scored four or more goals - the 1998 team that earned the first NCAA berth, the 2002 team that was Shelley Smith's first to advance to the SEC Tournament, and the miraculous 2009 team that won the SEC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16.
Kayla Grimsley, Danielle Au, Kortney Rhoades, Lolly Holland and Maria Petroni each have scored at least four goals, and Gabrielle Gilbert is right behind with three scores on the year. The 1998 team was the only team to finish with six players at four goals or more.
Defense has been the calling card for Shelley Smith's Gamecocks, and the 2011 season shows early signs of continuing that character trait despite the abundance of youth in the regular rotation. South Carolina has posted shutouts in eight of its 13 wins and leads the SEC with 13 goals against, a 0.70 goals against average and an 84.1 save percentage.
MORE ON THE BACKLINE
Senior Ellen Fahey (left center back) and redshirt junior Dani Henry (right back) were both named to the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week last week as the leaders of the backline that has limited five of nine SEC opponents to four shots on goal or less. In SEC play, the Gamecocks have allowed an SEC-low 17 points, and South Carolina is the only team that has not allowed two goals in a game more than once in conference play.