Nov. 23, 2017
NCAA Quarterfinals | South Carolina vs. Florida
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 1 seeded South Carolina women’s soccer (18-2-1) hosts third-seeded Florida (17-6-0) in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Fri., Nov. 24. Kickoff from Stone Stadium is set for 6 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network+. The fifth-ranked Gamecocks will punch the program’s first ticket to the Women’s College Cup with a win over the No. 16 Gators.
FROM THE COACH
“I have a lot of respect for Florida. We’ve played them, and I know we can advance if we do our jobs. That’s the exciting part, and we are glad to be home – I think that’s a big advantage. Stone Stadium is one of the best venues for college soccer, and our fans have been tremendous. It’s going to be a good game, and at this point in the season you are going to face the top teams in the country.” – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
The Gators notched a 3-1 victory over South Alabama in the opening round (Nov. 10) of the NCAA Tournament before topping USF (R32, 1-0) and Washington State (R16, 1-0) last week en route to a spot in the quarterfinals. Florida is 3-3 against ranked foes this season and 1-1 in matches versus a top-five opponent. The Gators moved past top-ranked Stanford 3-2 (Aug. 25) and closed the regular season with a 1-0 loss to the then-No. 3 Gamecocks (Oct. 26).
Freshman striker Deanne Rose, who netted the overtime game-winner on Sunday against the Cougars, leads Florida in points (21) and goals (9). Redshirt senior midfielder Gabby Seiler has paced the Gators with eight assists, while junior Mayra Pelayo ranks second on the team in game-winners (3) and third in goals (4) and points (10). Junior Kaylan Marckese has played in 17 games in net, where she holds a goals against average of 0.69.
South Carolina has won four of its last six matches against the Gators, including the 1-0 victory last month that secured its second-straight SEC Regular-Season Title. Florida leads the overall series with a mark of 22-7-1.
LAST TIME OUT
Senior striker Savannah McCaskill scored on a header in the fourth minute to push South Carolina past Santa Clara 1-0 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament last Sunday at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks punched their ticket to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the second-straight year with the win over the Broncos.
The early tally from McCaskill was all the Gamecocks needed, as Carolina produced another clinical display on the defensive end. Santa Clara attempted three shots and finished with one attempt on frame. The Gamecocks withstood six corner kicks by the Broncos en route to another clean sheet in the NCAA Tournament.
McCaskill registered the decisive goal on a scoring play that began with a cross from the right side by sophomore defender Tatumn Milazzo. Milazzo’s pass located Meaghan Carrigan at the far post, and the senior forward headed a shot that hit off the crossbar. The ensuing deflection fell to McCaskill, who one-timed a shot into the back of the net with her head.
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 quarterfinals in three of the last four years, sport a mark of 12-9-3 in NCAA Tournament games and an 0-2 record in the Elite Eight. Carolina is 10-3-1 in the tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and 10 of its 11 NCAA postseason appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith. The Gamecocks, who are making their third all-time quarterfinal appearance, boast a mark of 14-2-0 against teams that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Ten of the last 11 matches between Carolina and Florida have been decided by one goal, and three of the last six contests have gone into overtime. The Gamecocks have won two of the three games that were decided by overtime, including a 1-0 victory last season at Stone Stadium when recent Carolina graduate Chelsea Drennan converted a penalty kick in the 103rd minute. Each of Carolina’s last three victories over the Gators have resulted from game-winners in the last 10 minutes of the match.
GOOD AGAINST GOOD
The Gamecocks are 9-2 against ranked opponents since the start of the 2016 season. Two of the victories over that stretch came in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, and Carolina has outscored opponents 14-5 throughout the 11 contests. The Gamecocks, who are 5-0 against ranked foes in 2017, can set a single-season program record for wins over top-25 opponents (6) with a victory against the Gators Friday.
TOURNAMENT CLEAN SHEET
The Gamecocks have yet to concede a goal in the NCAA Tournament, outscoring opponents 5-0 over the first three rounds. Carolina has allowed just one goal over its last seven tournament matches in a stretch that dates back to 2016. The Gamecocks have allowed three or less shots on target five times in those seven matches, holding an opponent to zero attempts on frame twice over that stretch. Carolina’s shutout on Sunday came against a Santa Clara squad that ranked sixth in NCAA Division I in total goals (48).
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.
COMING UP CLUTCH
With her goal against Santa Clara this past weekend, Gamecock attacker Savannah McCaskill set a new program record with 17 game-winners. The senior standout, who set a single-year school record with 10 game-winning tallies in 2016, is tied for second in the SEC with five game-winners this season. McCaskill is also tied for first in school history with 12 game-winning assists, and her seven points in NCAA Tournament play are two away from the all-time school record.
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 13 of their last 17 matches, rank ninth in NCAA Division I with a league-best 0.42 goals against average for the year. Carolina boasts 16 shutouts in league play since 2016.
Carolina’s freshman class has made an instant impact on the Gamecock attack, accounting for 15 of the team’s 35 goals in 2017. A freshman has notched the game-winner in seven of South Carolina’s 18 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 nine 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 51-6-2 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 158-55-13 (.728) 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 23-1-1 at home since the start of the 2016 season, registering 18 shutouts over that time.
AN ELITE GROUP
This year’s senior class has enjoyed one of the best four-year runs in school history. The Gamecocks have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons, reaching the Elite Eight three times over that stretch. Carolina’s 64 wins since 2014 are tied for the 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.
The winner of Friday’s NCAA Quarterfinal match between the Gamecocks and Gators will advance to the Women’s College Cup in Orlando, Fla., where it will face either top-seeded Stanford or third-seeded Penn State in the semifinal round. The semifinals are set for 5 and 7:30 p.m. ET at the Orlando City Stadium. Both semifinal matches will air on ESPNU.
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