Nov. 10, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 1 seed South Carolina (18-1-1) is set to host Alabama State (11-9-1) in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament on Fri., Nov. 11, at Stone Stadium. Kickoff between the third-ranked Gamecocks and Hornets is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN. Friday will mark the first ever meeting between the two schools, and a win over Alabama State will match South Carolina’s single-season record for victories (19) in one year.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and children (17 and under). Fans can call the ticket office at 1-800-4SC-FANS, and tickets will be available for purchase on the day of the match. The first 250 South Carolina students will receive free admission at the Whaley Street entrance.
FROM THE COACH
"We're honored to be a No. 1 seed, and we're excited about the opportunity we've been given. Having home field advantage is tremendous. We have the best fans in the country, and we're going to use that to our advantage." – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
SCOUTING ALABAMA STATE
Alabama State earned the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament after topping Arkansas Pine-Bluff 2-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship this past Sunday (Nov. 6). The Hornets, winners of six straight, enter Friday’s contest with an overall mark of 11-9-1. They are 5-6-1 when playing away from home in 2016, and this week marks their first match against a ranked opponent this year.
The Hornets boast the top scoring offense in Division I, averaging 2.95 tallies per match. Redshirt junior forward Ariela Lewis spearheads the attack, as she leads the team in goals (17) and points (42). Her 42 points rank third in Division I, while her 17 goals are good for the sixth-best mark nationally.
Senior Aaliyah Lewis, one of six Alabama State players with double-digit points in 2016, is tied for first on the team with nine assists, and her 33 points rank second. Sophomore goalkeeper Gianna Guyot has played in 19 of Alabama State’s 21 matches, notching two shutouts for the year. As a team, the Hornets rank second in the SWAC with a 1.89 goals against average.
LAST TIME OUT
South Carolina suffered its first loss of the season last Friday (Nov. 4), falling to No. 15 Florida 1-0 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks, who saw their program-record 18-match winning streak snapped, were shut out for the first time this year. The Gators grabbed the lead in the 19th minute after scoring off a rebound in the box, and Carolina was unable to find the equalizer down the stretch. Forwards Savannah McCaskill and Sophie Groff both saw scoring chances in the second half, while freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski totaled four saves for the match. Carolina held a 12-10 shot advantage in the contest, putting three attempts on frame.
SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
This season marks Carolina’s 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the ninth time in the last 10 years it has reached the event. The Gamecocks have hosted a first-round match in four of the last five years, advancing out of those games three times.
Carolina sports a mark of 6-8-3 in NCAA Tournament games, including a 5-4 record in the first round. The Gamecocks are 4-2-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and nine of their 10 NCAA Tournament appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith. Carolina is 8-1-1 against teams that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
WE’RE NUMBER 1
South Carolina earned the program’s first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed when the 64-team field was announced during Monday’s selection show. This season marks the third time the Gamecocks will head into the NCAA Tournament with a national seed. Carolina was a No. 2 seed in 2009 and a No. 3 seed for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
SMITH APPROACHING 200 WINS AT CAROLINA
Shelley Smith, the program’s winningest coach, enters Friday one victory shy of 200 for her career at South Carolina. The 16th-year head coach, who spent four seasons at Rhode Island before coming to Carolina in 2001, has led the Gamecocks to double-digit wins in 12 seasons during her tenure.
The Gamecocks have been ranked in the top five of the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll for the last seven weeks. Carolina, which earned the program’s highest ranking (No. 2) earlier this season, has spent the last five weeks ranked in the top three, and it has been in the poll’s top 10 since Sept. 20. The Gamecocks are also currently listed in the top 10 by Soccer America (No. 4) and TopDrawerSoccer.com (No. 6).
The SEC Champion Gamecocks dominated the league’s postseason awards, earning three major accolades to go along with seven all-conference honors. Shelley Smith was tabbed the league’s Coach of the Year, while junior forward Savannah McCaskill (Offensive Player of the Year) and senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz (Defensive Player of the Year) were also honored. Smith’s accolade marked her third Coach of the Year award, and McCaskill, the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, became the second player in school history to garner Offensive Player of the Year honors. Kurtz is the third Gamecock to be named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
South Carolina’s five First-Team All-SEC honorees (McCaskill, Kurtz, midfielder Chelsea Drennan, defender Paige Bendell, goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski) led the league and were the most in one year in school history. Senior striker Sophie Groff was also recognized, as she was named to the Second Team All-SEC. In addition to her First-Team honors, Krzeczowski was selected to the Freshman All-SEC squad.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
South Carolina’s 2-0 victory over Tennessee on Oct. 23 gave the Gamecocks their third SEC Championship. Carolina won the 2009 SEC Tournament before capturing the league’s regular-season title in 2011. The Gamecocks, who did not trail in conference play this season, outscored league opponents 22-3 during the regular season. South Carolina became the third school in league history to boast an undefeated conference record following its 2-0 win over Ole Miss (Oct. 27). With the victory, the Gamecocks matched Florida’s 11-0-0 league record in 2008 for the top SEC mark in conference history.
Since 2013, South Carolina boasts a record of 38-5-1 in matches played at “The Graveyard”. The Gamecocks recorded the program’s first undefeated home season (11-0-0) in 2013, and they have gone 145-54-12 overall at Stone Stadium, good for a .716 winning percentage. Carolina, which won all of its matches at Stone Stadium during the regular season for the third time in school history, has outscored opponents 26-3 at home in 2016.
REGULAR SEASON CLEAN SHEET
South Carolina, which sports the second-best winning percentage (.925) nationally, was the only team to finish the regular season unbeaten among the 334 NCAA Division I schools. The Gamecocks went undefeated (6-0-1) in non-conference play for the first time since 2013, and they finished the regular season unbeaten on the road (6-0-1) for just the second time in program history. The Gamecocks are the only SEC school ever to finish the regular season undefeated, non-conference and conference matches included.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
South Carolina’s defense paved the way to its 2016 SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks boasted shutouts in eight of their 11 league matches, allowing just one goal on the road in conference action. Carolina conceded just three goals overall in league play, and the Gamecocks ranked first in the SEC in goals allowed (7) and shutouts (11). Their 0.44 goals against average currently leads the league and ranks seventh in NCAA Division I. South Carolina has limited an opponent to three or fewer shots on goal 15 times this season.
A STREAK TO REMEMBER
South Carolina’s loss to No. 15 Florida on Nov. 2 snapped the best stretch in program history. The Gamecocks boasted the longest winning streak (18) and longest unbeaten streak (19) in school history. Both streaks bested the previous program records that were set in 2009 when South Carolina won 11-straight matches and began the season 13-0-1. South Carolina’s current six-match winning streak in true road games is its longest ever, and the team’s 17 regular-season victories in 2016 were its most ever in one season.
ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION
The Gamecocks trailed for just 85 seconds during the regular season, falling behind 1-0 against UCF (Aug. 28) following a penalty kick. South Carolina has headed into halftime with the lead in nine games this year, and 10 of its victories have come by at least two goals. The Gamecocks have scored in the opening 15 minutes of a match nine times in 2016.
MCCASKILL’S RECORD-SETTING PACE
Junior Savannah McCaskill’s first of two tallies in the SEC quarterfinals against Texas A&M (Nov. 2) gave the striker 15 goals in 2016, the most in one season by a Gamecock. The Chapin, S.C., native boasts 16 goals on the year, and her 40 points are also a program single-season record. She boasts five multi-goal games this season, and her nine game-winners in 2016 are also the most in one year in school history. McCaskill’s eight assists this year are the seventh-best single-year total by a Gamecock, and the forward ranks sixth in total points and seventh in total goals in Division I.
PLAYING FOR A CROWD
South Carolina led Division I in home attendance during the regular season, averaging 3,173 fans per match at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks, who have ranked in the top 10 in average home attendance in each of the last three years, are currently second in total attendance (31,734) among Division I schools.
COMING UP CLUTCH
Forward Savannah McCaskill ranks second in Division I with nine game-winners this season. She has tallied the game-winning goal in each of Carolina’s last three victories, and the junior is one of five Gamecocks to notch double-digit game-winners (11) for her career.
A win over the Hornets would set South Carolina up with a match against either Oklahoma State or No. 20 Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The time and date of the contest will be determined following the completion of round one.
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