Nov. 8, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina recently wrapped up its second consecutive Southeastern Conference Regular Season Championship, and senior midfielders Dominique Babbitt and Lindsey Lane are big reasons why. Neither garner many accolades or eye-popping statistics, but their leadership and work on both ends of the field doesn’t go unnoticed by those who understand the game.
“I really enjoy the role I have on the team,” Babbitt said. “It doesn’t matter what I have to do. This is the kind of team where everyone is really willing to work for each other, even if it’s doing the things that aren’t so glamorous.
“I try to make the back’s life a little easier. If I can cut off a ball or if a striker from the other team gets the ball, and I can add pressure to make our back’s life easier, then I’m happy. I’m just trying to get the ball to players who can make plays. I can go a game without getting 20 touches on the ball, but if I’m making someone else’s life easier, than that’s a good job to get done. Sometimes it’s not about making plays, but doing grunt-work and adding pressure to the other team.”
“We like to bring that hard-working presence every day,” Lane said. “We’re not the goal scorers, but we like to do the nitty-gritty work that sometimes goes unnoticed, but the team really appreciates it. Now that we’re seniors, we had to bring that leadership role and bring that grit and fight to the field. We want to set a good example for the younger players.”
The term “team player” is so cliché, but so necessary.
“The two of them run our midfield,” said head coach Shelley Smith. “They’re very similar. You want talk about unsung heroes? The miles they cover in a game and the work they do is tremendous. They’re not flashy. They’re not scoring a lot of goals, and they’re not the ones in the back line getting credit for shutouts, but if you watch them both play, they limit a lot of the opportunities other teams have before they can even get to the back four and get a shot off.
“They’re also linking players. They’re the ones who win possessions. They’re key to what we do.”
We will do anything for any of our teammates on and off the field.
What the Gamecocks do is win a lot of games. In addition to back-to-back SEC Regular Season Championships, the Gamecocks have reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons. Even with that success, Babbitt and Lane didn’t feel the burden of having a target on their backs.
“Last year was great and we made some history,” Lane said. “This year, we knew we had a younger team, so we didn’t know what to expect. We have an amazing group of freshmen and a great foundation of leadership from the upperclassmen, so I didn’t feel as much pressure as I thought I would to win the SEC again. I think that’s why we were so successful in that we didn’t put that pressure on ourselves. We just went out every day and tried to get better. The coaches never put that pressure on us that we needed to live up to last year.”
“Having that target on our back, we knew that everyone was going to give us their best shot,” Babbitt said. “We have so many impact players that weren’t here last year, so they didn’t have that on their shoulders. It’s a new team and a new year, so we couldn’t let last year’s success keep us from doing what we needed to this year. We were very proud of what we did last year, but everyone understood that it was a new year.”
The significance of winning the SEC two years in row, while not losing a regular season league match, is not lost on either of the two, and each is special in its own way.
“They’re both similar feelings, but also different, too,” Babbitt said. “Last year was the first time for any of us to win the conference championship, but this year we had a young team with different people. We have completely different strengths than last year, so it felt new like we hadn’t done it before even though we did it last year.”
“It’s hard to compare because it’s a much different team this year,” Lane said. “Proving to ourselves that we could take this young team and lead it, says a lot. It does mean a lot to go out and win it again. Both championships are great, but this year we want to go all the way [to a national championship].”
While Babbitt and Lane have similar roles, they each appreciate what the other brings to the team.
“Dom is a silent assassin,” Lane said. “She isn’t the most vocal person, but she has made individual relationships with everyone on this team and everyone has so much respect for her. She is very good at keeping her cool, and she keeps me cool because I can get angry sometimes.”
“Lindsey is the hardest working person I have ever met, and she’s probably the funniest person I’ve ever met, too,” Babbitt said. “She is the type of friend that will always be there on and off the field. I really look up to her. Even in crisis moments, she is calm, cool, and collected. I really hope that I can more like her. She is the most reliable person I know. In tough times, instead of getting discouraged, she works ten times harder. She is a really great leader.”
Playing their final season with the Gamecocks, Babbitt and Lane hope that their efforts are carried on by this year’s underclassmen.
“I think we’ve always had good team chemistry, and that’s something I’m very passionate about,” Babbitt said. “It’s important for us to be a family and have everyone bring something to the table. If I can help bring that out of some players to show them that everybody is important, and nobody is more important than anybody else, then I’ve done my job.
“I just want to be a great teammate. There’s more to soccer than just playing soccer. We will do anything for any of our teammates on and off the field.”
“I’ve had a couple of injuries in my career, and there were times I thought I might not play soccer again or play at the level that I once did,” Lane said. “I want to be a role model for people who go through hard times, and show that you can come out of it. I hope what I leave for the younger players is a hard work ethic and a drive to get better every day.”
As they prepare for the postseason, neither is ready for their careers to end any time soon.
“We’re definitely taking one game at a time,” Lane said. “We’re good enough to beat anyone in the country, and we can also get beat by anybody because competition in the NCAAs is so stiff.”
“Every postseason has been different, and we have different personalities on the team,” Babbitt said. “We’re just focusing on our next game, playing to the best of our abilities, and leaving it all on the field.”
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