Nov. 18, 2017
#1 Seed Women's Soccer vs. Santa Clara
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 1 seeded South Carolina women's soccer (17-2-1) plays host to Santa Clara (15-6-1) in the third round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Sun., Nov. 19. Kickoff from Stone Stadium is set for 2 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network+. Sunday's contest will mark the first meeting between the two schools. With a win, the Gamecocks will advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in the last four years.
FROM THE COACH
"We are excited to be one of 16 teams left in the country having the opportunity to play again on Sunday. It will be nice to face a team we haven't played before. We have a lot of respect for Santa Clara. We know we will have another quality team to face tomorrow, and we're thankful to be at home." - South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
SCOUTING SANTA CLARA
The Broncos posted a 2-1 win over No. 19 California in the opening round (Nov. 11) of the NCAA Tournament before moving past Vanderbilt 3-1 in round two at Stone Stadium on Friday. Santa Clara put eight of its 12 shots on goal against the Commodores and received a pair of first-half tallies from sophomore forward Maddy Gonzalez. Sunday's contest versus the No. 5 Gamecocks will mark the sixth match against a ranked foe this season for the Broncos, who are 1-3-1 when facing a top-25 squad in 2017.
Freshman striker Kelsey Turnbow leads Santa Clara and ranks 16th in NCAA Division I with 13 goals this season, while Gonzalez is second on the team in points (24) and goals (10). Turnbow and Gonzalez have combined for nine game-winners for the Broncos, whose 48 total goals this season stand as the sixth-best mark nationally. Junior Melissa Lowder has appeared in net in 17 matches this year and enters this weekend with a 1.45 goals against average.
This season marks the 27th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament for Santa Clara. The Broncos, who have qualified for the event in eight of the last nine years, reached the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2016 following a run that included a 1-0 victory over top-seeded Stanford in round two.
LAST TIME OUT
Freshman forward Luciana Zullo tallied a goal in the 39th minute to lift South Carolina to a 1-0 victory over Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night at Stone Stadium.
Zullo, who attempted both of Carolina's two shots in the first half, notched the decisive goal after collecting a pass near the right side. The Flemington, N.J., native raced towards the center of the box and used her quickness to create some space before firing the ball inside the right post on a shot from 18 yards out. The goal marked the fifth tally of the season for the first-year attacker.
Carolina's defense stood tall Friday against a Wisconsin squad that spent considerable time in its attacking third. The Gamecock backline limited the Badgers to just two attempts on target, while sophomore goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski stifled several chances throughout the contest. Carolina and Wisconsin combined for just 15 shots in the first ever meeting between the two schools.
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, who have advanced to the third round in three of the last four years, sport a mark of 11-9-3 in NCAA Tournament games and a 2-1 record in round three. Carolina is 9-3-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and 10 of its 11 NCAA Tournament appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith. The Gamecocks are 13-2-0 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 the selection show on Nov. 6. This season marks the fourth time the Gamecocks headed 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.
PROTECT YOUR BOX
The Gamecocks have been especially stingy in the NCAA postseason, conceding just one goal in their last six tournament matches in a stretch that dates back to last year. Carolina has allowed three or less shots on target four times in those six matches, holding an opponent to zero attempts on frame twice over that time.
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 12 of their last 16 matches, rank 10th in NCAA Division I with a league-best 0.46 goals against average for the year. Carolina boasts 16 shutouts in league play since the start of the 2016 season.
Carolina's freshman class has made an instant impact on the Gamecock attack, accounting for 15 of the team's 34 goals in 2017. A freshman has notched the game-winner in seven of South Carolina's 17 victories, and six first-year players have recorded a point this fall. Forward Luciana Zullo, who has registered a point in four of the last eight games, ranks third on the team in points (13) and goals (5). First-year midfielder Bianca Galassini's four goals stand as the fourth-best mark on the team, while fellow newcomer Breukelen Woodard is one of four Gamecocks with multiple assists on the year. Freshman attacker Ryan Gareis has netted three goals this season, two of which have resulted in the game-winner.
Since 2013, South Carolina boasts a record of 50-6-2 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 157-55-13 (.727) 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 22-1-1 at home since the start of the 2016 season, registering 17 shutouts over that time.
This year's senior class has enjoyed one of the best four-year stretches in school history. The Gamecocks have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons, reaching the Elite Eight twice during that time. Carolina's 63 wins since 2014 are the second-most in a four-year period in program history, and the senior class has collected 15 victories over ranked opponents during its time in Columbia.
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 18th 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 Sunday's NCAA Tournament third-round match between the Gamecocks and Broncos will face either third-seeded Florida or Washington State in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The quarterfinal contest will take place next Friday (Nov. 24) or Saturday (Nov. 25), and Carolina will host the contest should it advance this weekend.
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