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Nov. 19, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite a valiant effort, the University of South Carolina men’s soccer team was unable to overcome College of Charleston, falling 3-2, in the first round of the NCAA Soccer Tournament at Stone Stadium in Columbia on Friday night. The Cougars improved to 17-5-1 and advance to face eight-seeded North Carolina-Greensboro in the second round. The Gamecocks closed their season at 12-7-1 after making the school’s 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

USC nearly opened the scoring just nine minutes into the match. Freshman Jose Ramos played the ball to junior Josh Alcala on the run. Alcala slipped the ball to junior Ryan Deter at the far post, but Charleston goalie Keith Wiggans was there to make the save

College of Charleston registered the first goal of the match in the 27th minute. Darren Toby headed in Troy Lesesne’s free kick to put the Cougars on top, 1-0. Both teams continued to generate scoring chances, but the score remained that way at halftime.

It looked as if South Carolina would secure the equalizer 11 minutes into the second half. Junior Eric Szeszycki launched a shot from the top of the 18-yard box, but Wiggans pushed the ball back out of the box and it landed at Szeszycki’s feet. Szeszycki fired again, but Wiggans tipped the ball, making a spectacular save.

The Cougars took a 2-0 lead at the 61:15 mark when Jeremy Gold drove the ball downfield on a counter attack, all the way into the box and knocked it into the back of the net.

Facing a two-goal deficit, USC picked up the pace, and got on the scoreboard in the 73rd minute. Sophomore forward Ayo Akinsete took a pass from Ramos and fired a shot into the lower left corner of the goal from 10-yards out. The goal was Akinsete’s fifth of the season.

USC continued to fight, but Charleston answered with its third goal at 79:37. Toby struck again, playing give-and-go with Gold before firing the ball in from 12-yards and making it 3-1.

The Gamecocks would not go quietly, though. Just over two minutes later, junior Greg Reece rifled a shot and Wiggans earned the save with a deflection, but Deter hustled after the loose ball and headed the ball just across the goal line to bring USC back to within a goal.

Carolina’s furious rally continued, but came up short. After being out-shot 13-7, the Gamecocks turned the tables, out-shooting Charleston, 18-7, in the final 45 minutes.

Both goalkeepers had busy nights. Sophomore goalkeeper Brad Guzan finished with seven saves, while USC forced Wiggans to stop 10 shots.

Freshman Sebastian Lindholm, USC’s leading scorer, tore the anterior crucaite ligament in his knee earlier this week and did not play tonight.

Post-match quotes

South Carolina Head Coach Mark Berson:

“I’m extremely proud of my team tonight. I thought they did a tremendous job. I thought College of Charleston played a great game. It was a tremendous soccer game from end to end. If that’s the first college soccer game you’ve ever seen, I guarantee you that you’re coming back to look at another one. We’re a very young team and we showed that at times. We make mistakes and made mental areas, yet we’re getting better. Coming into the NCAA Tournament is another step in the right direction for this group. We don’t have any seniors. We only have four juniors. This is a group that will get better and will learn from this experience. I’m proud of what they accomplished this year and I look forward to what they can accomplish in the future.”

“I thought we showed an awful lot of character to come back. We gave up a goal on a set piece. We gave up a goal on a counter. How their goalkeeper saves those balls, I don’t know. Those were unbelievable saves. They were as good a saves as I have ever seen in a college soccer game. That’s the difference in the game right there. That changes the complexion of the game, yet we still had the character to come back and score.

Sophomore goalkeeper Brad Guzan On playing in the NCAA Tournament:

“It was great experience for us. We have 14 first-year players on this team and for us sophomores it was our first chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. It will definitely help us in the long run and make us a stronger team in the future.”

Junior midfielder Eric Szeszycki

On the team’s resiliency in coming back form deficits:

“We don’t let the score go to our heads. There are plenty of times this season when we have gone to two goals down and still come back. We don’t hang our heads or get down. I think it shows our willingness to win.”