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Nov. 29, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A youthful South Carolina men’s soccer team capped the 2004 season by winning 12 matches and earning the school’s 17th trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks finished with a 12-7-1 record and ended their season with an NCAA first round loss to College of Charleston on Nov. 23. USC secured a winning record for the 25th time in the program’s 27 seasons of existence.

Freshman Sebastian Lindholm led the Gamecocks in scoring with 16 points on six goals and four assists. Lindholm played in all but one match this season as he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in practice during the week before South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament meeting with College of Charleston.

Juniors Ryan Deter and Eric Szeszycki ranked second on the team with 14 points apiece. Deter finished with five goals and four assists and scored a team-best three game-winning goals in 2004. Szeszycki had five goals and four assists as well. All five of the team captain’s goals were scored on penalty kicks, as he was a perfect 5-for-5 in those attempts.

Sophomores Ayo Akinsete and Michael Samburksy were tied for third with 12 points. Akinsete’s five goals tied for first on the club and he also had a pair of assists. Sambursky, who led USC with 66 shots this season, scored three goals and paced the Gamecocks with six assists in 2004.

Junior Josh Alcala scored in double-digits as well, finishing the season with 11 points. Alcala scored three goals and assisted on five goals, the second-highest total on the team.

Junior captain Greg Reece and sophomore Makan Hislop both started every match they played in on defense for USC. The tandem helped the Gamecocks to five shutout victories. Reece had seven points for Carolina on three goals and one assist, while Hislop finished the season with one goal.

Sophomore goalkeeper Brad Guzan played every minute of the season between the posts. The captain posted a 1.34 goals-against average and made 104 saves to go with five shutouts. Guzan is also one of 15 semifinalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, which honors college soccer’s top player.

South Carolina experienced a youth movement of sorts in 2004 and in turn, the future looks bright for Gamecock soccer. USC’s 24-player roster featured no seniors and just four juniors. There were 15 players who were new to the team, and of those 15, 12 were true freshmen.

South Carolina sophomore Brad Guzan is one of 15 semifinalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, which honors college soccer’s national player of the year. Guzan, who hails from Homer Glen, Ill., is the only goalkeeper and one of only two underclassmen named to the list. Since his arrival at USC for the 2003 season, Guzan has started every match at goalkeeper. A team captain in this season, he helped guide the Gamecocks to a 12-7-1 record and the 17th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Guzan played 1820:00 minutes in goal and finished with five shutouts. He also recorded 104 saves, the third-most in a single season in USC history, and had a 1.34 goals-against average.

In 2003, Guzan enjoyed an outstanding rookie season with the Gamecocks. He was selected NSCAA All-South Region and named to College Soccer News’ All-Freshman team. Guzan finished with a 0.96 goals-against average (GAA) and posted eight shutouts. In addition, his .793 save percentage ranks fifth and his 0.96 GAA ranks third all-time for a freshman at USC.

Over the summer, he competed with the Chicago Fire Reserves team in the Professional Development League. He led the PDF in goals-against average (0.388), shutouts (8), victories (13) and goals allowed (5) and was selected to the All-League team.

Guzan joins a long line of excellent goalkeepers who have played at South Carolina under head coach Mark Berson, who was a collegiate goalkeeper himself. In 1985, Warren Lipka was chosen as the National Goalkeeper of the Year and Charles Arndt achieved the same feat in 1988. Arndt (1988) and Henry Ring (1998 and 2000) garnered All-America honors for the Gamecocks.

The 15 candidates for the M.A.C. Hermann Award, college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy, were selected by a nominating committee of Division I college coaches. The winner will be determined in voting by NSCAA Division I member coaches. Three men’s and three women’s finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy will be announced at the 2004 Men’s College Cup in December. The finalists will be invited to the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis on Friday, Jan. 7, 2005, for the announcement of the winner at a press conference. Both winners will be presented with the prestigious crystal soccer ball trophy at a banquet later that evening.

Multiple Gamecock players worked their way into the USC record books in 2004. Here’s a look at the names and numbers:

— Sebastian Lindholm’s 16 points rank tied for 10th for a points scored by a freshman. Current sophomore Ayo Akinsete (2003) and Rob Smith (1991) also scored 16 points during their rookie seasons.

— Brad Guzan accumulated 104 saves this season, the third-most ever by a Gamecock goalkeeper in a single season.

— Lindholm’s four assists in 2004 are tied for eighth in the freshman records, along with five other players.

SOUTH CAROLINA TO JOIN CONFERENCE USA IN 2005 South Carolina accepted an invitation to enter Conference USA as an affiliate member in men’s soccer next season. USC, Florida International and Kentucky are set to join current members East Carolina, UAB and Memphis, as well as incoming members Marshall, SMU, Tulsa and Central Florida to form the 10-team league next season. The teams will play a nine-game, round-robin schedule. In addition, six of the 10 teams will advance to a conference tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

USC agreed to join the league because only three SEC schools field a men’s soccer team, not enough for a conference schedule. It will mark only the second conference affiliation in the 27-year history of the program. The Gamecocks competed in the Metro Conference in 1993 and 1994. Next year’s Conference USA schedule looks to be a challenging one as five of the 10 teams made the 48-team NCAA Tournament field. Five representatives would have been the second-most in 2004, matching the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big Ten Conference led the way with six teams this season.

Head coach Mark Berson won his 375th career game on Oct. 10 against Clemson. The Gamecock mentor is in his 27th season and is the only coach USC men’s soccer has ever known. Including one season as the head coach at The Citadel, Berson’s career record is 379-139-43. At South Carolina, he is 368-136-43.

Under Berson’s leadership, South Carolina has established itself as one of the nation’s premier soccer programs. The Gamecocks have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament 17 times, including two trips to the final four, in the 27 years of the program’s existence.

South Carolina won its home tournament, the adidas-South Carolina Gamecock Classic, for the third straight season in 2004. The Gamecocks used a 3-2 win over No. 16 Portland on Sept. 10 and a 1-0 victory over Bucknell on Sept. 12 to capture the title.

The Gamecocks’ play continued a long tradition of success in their home tournament. Of the 18 years South Carolina has hosted its annual Classic, the Gamecocks have won the event 14 times. Carolina boasts an impressive all-time record of 30-4-2 in its home tournament. USC won the inaugural tournament in 1987, and after failing to win the event for two consecutive years, captured seven straight titles from 1993 to 1999. The Gamecocks also finished first in 1990 and 1991.

South Carolina had several players receive individual honors during the course of the 2004 season.

Soccer America National Team of the Week
J.D. Moon
Josh Alcala

College Soccer News Team of the Week
Josh Alcala

Adidas-Gamecock Classic All-Tournament Team
Ayo Akinsete, Offensive MVP
Makan Hislop
Josh Alcala
Michael Sambursky

College of Charleston Aaron Olitzky Memorial Classic All-Tournament Team
Sebastian Lindholm
Eric Szeszycki

The Gamecocks proved that they were capable of playing with anybody this season. South Carolina picked up several impressive wins in 2004, including four victories over teams that are in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at those highlights:

— USC defeated then No. 16 Portland in the adidas/Gamecock Classic on Sept. 10, 3-2.

— On Sept. 24, the Gamecocks went on the road to defeat then No. 13 Wake Forest, 1-0. The Demon Deacons, the ACC regular season champs, were the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

— USC shut out then-No. 13 Duke in Columbia on Oct. 31, 1-0. That win also gave the Gamecocks a 3-1 record against Atlantic Coast Conference teams in 2004.

— South Carolina concluded the regular season with a 3-1 victory over then No. 21 Florida International in Columbia on Nov. 14.