By Miquel Jacobs Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 22 South Carolina hosts Texas Friday in the first round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament, marking the fifth consecutive year that the Gamecocks have competed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks (15-6-0) and Longhorns (11-8-1) will kickoff Friday at 7 p.m. at Stone Stadium in the first meeting between the two teams.
All adult tickets are $8 and all tickets for students, USC Faculty/Staff and youth (17 and under) are $5. The first 200 South Carolina students will be admitted for free courtesy of donations by local chapters of the Gamecock Club. Gates open at 6 p.m.
All parking is free for South Carolina women's soccer matches. Fans are encouraged to use the new parking garage located on Heyward Street for easy access to the stadium.
CAROLINA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
South Carolina is playing in its fifth consecutive tournament and sixth overall, holding an all-time record of 3-4-1 in NCAA Tournament games. The first bid came in a 2-0 loss at Charlotte in 1998. The current streak began in 2007, Carolina earned an at-large bid with a 14-6-2 record when the Gamecocks played Duke to a 1-1 draw at Athens, Ga. Duke advanced with a 4-1 edge in penalty kicks. In 2008, South Carolina dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to William & Mary at Durham, N.C. South Carolina advanced to the Round of 16 in 2009 with victories against Davidson (4-0) and Rutgers (1-0) before losing to Wake Forest (1-0) on a last-second stunner when the Demon Deacons scored off a corner kick at 89:59. The Gamecocks went 1-1 last season with a 2-1 victory over UNC Greensboro in the first round before falling to host Virginia (3-0).
Texas earned an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing tied for fourth in the Big 12 with a 3-4-1 conference mark. The Longhorns advanced to the semifinal of the Big 12 tournament. The team is led by senior Kylie Doniak's 15 points on five goals and five assists. The Longhorns have six players with at least three goals, including team leaders Doniak and junior Kristin Cummins. Junior Alexa Gaul has started every match in goal with a 1.07 goals against average, 68 saves and seven shutouts en route to Second Team All-Big 12 honors. The team is coached by 1995 national champion Chris Petrucelli, who is in his 13th season at Texas after leading Notre Dame to three consecutive NCAA title matches from 1994-96.
For the sixth consecutive year Coach Shelley Smith's 2011 squad exceeded preseason expectations by finishing strong in conference play. Picked to finish last in the East in the 2007 SEC Preseason poll, the Gamecocks tied a then-program record for wins en route to a fourth place division finish. Carolina was picked fourth in the 2008 preseason poll and again improved in the standings with a third place finish in the Eastern division. Coach Smith's team was again picked fourth in 2009 and responded with an SEC East runner-up finish that earned her SEC Coach of the Year honors. Last season's team was picked third in the East but won a program record eight SEC games to claim second overall in the league.
GRIMSLEY HITS ANOTHER MILESTONE
Senior Kayla Grimsley became South Carolina's all-time points scorer with a goal and assist against Arkansas, surpassing a 12-year old record held by Jennie Ondo (1996-99). Grimsley now has a stat line of 43 goals and 32 assists for 118 points in 93 career games.
Grimsley is one of two active players in the SEC with over 100 career points and is eighth on the NCAA active career points list. She's the only active player in the NCAA with 40 goals and 30 assists.
BLESSING IN DISGUISE?
South Carolina was upset in the SEC Quarterfinals last Wednesday with a 1-0 loss after entering the tournament as the top seed. The Gamecocks are hoping that the loss was a blessing in disguise, as Coach Shelley Smith's squad was starting to get hit by the injury bug. Without having to play three games in five days, the Gamecocks were able to rest and stick to a normal training session for NCAA's.
Starting left back Ali Whitney has been out of action for three weeks with a hamstring injury suffered at Ole Miss, but she has been upgraded to questionable for the first round of the tournament. Junior Dani Henry started the year at right back and moved to left back when Whitney went down, but Henry herself fell to a hamstring injury in the first half of the SEC Quarterfinal match last week. The Gamecocks hope the extra days off for her and the potential replacements - Ali Glemser and Lauren Hyden - will keep all players fresh and allow Henry to play. She is listed as probable for the match.
SOUTH CAROLINA STREAKING
Since dropping a 1-0 match to Kentucky on Sept. 30, South Carolina went on a tear with an eight-match winning streak in which they outscored opponents 23-5 en route to the SEC title. All but two of those wins were by multiple goals, and the team scored at least three in the other six.
The eight-match winning streak to conclude conference play was the longest in program history, surpassing the five straight SEC wins the team posted in 2010. It also bests the previous SEC 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 took over that distinction with its historic victory in Gainesville. 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 60-23-10 (.699). The class is 15th in the nation and second in the SEC for total victories over the last four seasons.
THE 10-10-30 CLUB
Senior Kayla Grimsley's last season became the first Gamecock to join the 10-10-30 club with 12 goals and 10 assists for 34 points. She is one assist shy of collecting that honor for the second consecutive season with a stat line of 10 goals and nine assists for 29 points this year.
HOME AT THE STONE
South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past five seasons, posting a 47-9-6 record at home since 2006. The streak included a 15-game unbeaten streak from Aug. 31, 2006-Oct. 5, 2007 and a 13-game unbeaten streak at "The Graveyard" from Oct. 19, 2007-Oct. 23, 2008. The lone blemishes on the record are a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt (Oct. 7, 2007), a loss to #7 Florida (Oct. 30, 2008), two thrillers against #14/13 Wake Forest (2009 and 2011) and losses to Louisville, Kentucky, #23 Minnesota, #20 Georgia and #8 Florida.
South Carolina hosted the NCAA First, Second and Third Rounds in 2009, and the Gamecock fans made those three matches the highest attended matches of the tournament prior to the College Cup (Final Four). In the first round, 3,813 attended the match, in the second round 2,724 attended the match and in the Round of 16, 4,347 fans attended the match in Columbia.
SOUTH CAROLINA SWEEPS ALL-SEC AWARDS
South Carolina swept the SEC women's soccer postseason awards with Shelley Smith being named SEC Coach of the Year, senior Kayla Grimsley being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Sabrina D'Angelo earning the titles of SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year. In being named SEC Freshman and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, she is the first player in SEC history to earn two Player of the Year honors in the same season.