Nov. 9, 2017
#1 Seed Women's Soccer vs. Alabama State
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 1 seeded South Carolina women’s soccer (15-2-1) plays host to Alabama State (11-7-2) in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Fri., Nov. 10. Kickoff from Stone Stadium is set for 6 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network+.
FROM THE COACH
“We are excited to be playing again tomorrow night and having this opportunity to compete for a national championship. We have had a good week of training, and I am pleased with the focus of our group. The players are determined and excited about playing again after having some rest since their last match in the SEC Tournament. Have the chance to play at home again at Stone Stadium is special, and we’re happy our fans can enjoy the start of the NCAA postseason with us.” – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
SCOUTING ALABAMA STATE
The Lady Hornets secured their second-straight NCAA Tournament berth this past Sunday after moving past Grambling State in penalty kicks to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship. Alabama State posted a 2-1 victory over Alcorn State in the first round of the SWAC Championship before advancing through penalty kicks against Texas Southern in the semifinals. Friday will mark the first game against ranked opponent this season for the Lady Hornets, who sport a mark of 4-5-0 in away matches in 2017.
Senior forward Lexi Krieger leads Alabama State with 27 points on nine goals and nine assists, while fellow attacker Ariela Lewis boasts a team-best 12 tallies. Midfielder Inma Martinez, who ranks sixth in NCAA Division I with six game-winners, is third on the team with 20 points. Junior goalkeeper Gianna Guyot has totaled the fourth-most saves (126) nationally and enters Friday’s contest with a goals against average of 1.80.
Carolina opened the 2016 NCAA Tournament against Alabama State, notching a 7-0 victory in the first meeting between the two. Forward Savannah McCaskill logged three assists and a goal in the win for the Gamecocks, whose six first-half tallies marked the second-most in a 45-minute span in program history.
LAST TIME OUT
South Carolina saw its 14-match unbeaten streak snapped after falling to eighth-seeded Arkansas 1-0 in the SEC Quarterfinals in Orange Beach, Ala., on Oct. 31.
The Razorbacks went ahead 1-0 in the 53rd minute on just their second shot on goal of the game. Defender Tori Cannata was credited with the goal after deflecting a shot from teammate Taylor Malham. The deflection snuck the ball into the right side of the net and gave Arkansas a one-goal advantage.
Top-seeded Carolina suffered the setback despite producing the majority of the scoring chances throughout the contest. The Gamecocks finished the match with a 20-3 shot advantage and attempted 10 of the game’s 13 corner kicks.
SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
This season marks Carolina’s 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the 10th time in the last 11 years it has reached the event. The Gamecocks have hosted a first-round match in five of the last six years, advancing out of those games four times. Carolina sports a mark of 9-9-3 in NCAA Tournament games, including a 6-4 record in the first round. The Gamecocks are 7-3-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and 10 of their 11 NCAA Tournament appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith. Carolina is 11-2-0 against teams that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
WE’RE NUMBER ONE
South Carolina earned the program’s second-straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed during Monday’s selection show. This season marks the fourth time the Gamecocks will head into the NCAA Tournament with a national seed. Carolina, which was a No. 2 seed in 2009 and a No. 3 seed for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, garnered the school’s first top seed last fall.
South Carolina was listed at No. 5 in the final United Soccer Coaches Poll of the regular season. The Gamecocks, who have been ranked inside the top-five in 10 of this season’s 12 weeks, have been positioned in the top-15 in each of the last 23 installments of the poll dating back to last year. South Carolina has earned a top-10 ranking 20 times over that stretch. The Gamecocks entered the fall with the program’s highest preseason spot after being listed at No. 4 in August.
Carolina’s win over Florida in the regular-season finale (Oct. 26) secured the fourth SEC Championship in program history. The Gamecocks won the 2009 SEC Tournament before finishing atop the league standings in 2011, 2016 and 2017. Carolina is the fifth school in league history to notch back-to-back SEC Regular-Season Titles. The Gamecocks are the first program to accomplish the feat since Texas A&M won the 2013 and 2014 conference championships.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
The Gamecocks finished SEC play unbeaten (9-0-1) for the second-straight year following last month’s victory over the Gators. Carolina trailed in just one conference match in 2017 and won by a margin of two goals or more four times throughout its league slate. The Gamecocks, who are unbeaten in their last 23 SEC regular-season matches, became the second school in league history to notch 20-straight wins in conference play with their victory over Missouri on Oct. 19. Carolina has outscored opponents 44-6 during its 23-game unbeaten streak.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
South Carolina’s defense paved the way to its second-consecutive SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks conceded just three goals in league action and earned a shutout in eight of its 10 conference matches. Carolina did not allow more than three shots on goal to any conference foe, and its 0.29 goals against average during league play led the SEC. The Gamecocks, who have registered a clean sheet in 11 of their last 15 matches, rank 12th in NCAA Division I with a league-best 0.49 goals against average for the year. Carolina boasts 16 shutouts in league play since the start of the 2016 season.
BOUNCE BACK CAPABILITY
South Carolina hasn’t recorded back-to-back losses over its last 46 matches in a stretch that goes back to Oct. 25, 2015. The Gamecocks, who have notched two wins and a draw following a loss during that time, have suffered consecutive setbacks on just three occasions over the last five years.
Carolina’s freshman class has made an instant impact on the Gamecock attack, accounting for 12 of the team’s 30 goals in 2017. A freshman has notched the game-winner in five of South Carolina’s 15 victories, and six first-year players have recorded a point this fall. Forward Luciana Zullo, who has registered a point in three of the last six games, ranks third on the team in game-winners (2), goals (4) and points (11). Midfielder Breukelen Woodard is one of four Gamecocks with multiple assists on the year, while fellow freshman Bianca Galassini is fourth on the team with three tallies. Newcomers Ryan Gareis and Lauren Chang also boast multiple goals in 2017.
Since 2013, South Carolina boasts a record of 48-6-2 in matches played at “The Graveyard”. The Gamecocks recorded the program’s first undefeated home season (11-0-0) in 2013, and they notched their 150th victory at Stone Stadium earlier this season following a win over Florida Gulf Coast on Aug. 20. Carolina, which has gone 155-55-13 (.724) overall at the venue, posted the program’s fourth regular-season unbeaten record (7-0-1) following its draw against Georgia on Oct. 22. The Gamecocks sport a mark of 20-1-1 at home since the start of the 2016 season, registering 15 shutouts over that time.
Gamecock senior striker Savannah McCaskill has served as the primary catalyst to the Carolina attack this season, logging a team-high nine assists. Her assist total ranks 15th in NCAA Division I and first in the SEC, and five of her helpers in 2017 have set up a game-winning tally. McCaskill’s 34 career assists are six shy of the all-time program record.
The winner of Friday’s NCAA Tournament opening-round match between the Gamecocks and Lady Hornets will face either Toledo or Wisconsin in the second round on Fri., Nov. 17. Carolina will host in round two should it defeat Alabama State, and match times for the second round will be announced following the conclusion of this weekend’s action.
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