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Nov. 7, 2005

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Conference USA Tournament Notes
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2005 C-USA Men’s Soccer Tournament Central

The No. 24 South Carolina men’s soccer team (10-6-1, 7-1-1 C-USA) travels to Dallas, Texas, to compete in the 2005 Conference USA Tournament, played at Westcott Field on the campus of Southern Methodist University this week. The No. 2 seed Gamecocks open play on Wednesday, Nov. 9, with a first round match against No. 7 seed Kentucky (6-7-5, 3-4-2 C-USA) at 3:30 p.m. ET.

If the Gamecocks win their first-round match, they would play in the semifinals at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 11. The Championship match kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 13, and will be televised live nationally on CSTV. The tournament winner earns Conference USA’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Gamecocks, winners of their last four games, enter the Conference USA Tournament with a 10-6-1 overall record. After starting the season 0-5-0, South Carolina has fought back to post a 10-1-1 record in its last 12 outings. In fact, since the first 10 days of the season, USC has lost only two matches. South Carolina broke into the national polls for the first time this season on Monday. The Gamecocks are No. 24 in Soccer America’s poll and are No. 28, according to College Soccer News.

Carolina compiled a 7-1-1 record and finished second in the Conference USA regular season standings with 22 points, just two points shy of C-USA regular season champion SMU. The Gamecocks are also the only team to defeat SMU in the regular season.

• Senior Josh Alcala and junior Mike Sambursky, this week’s Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week, have both scored 22 points on seven goals and eight assists to lead the Gamecocks. The pair is tied for third among Conference USA players for points scored overall. Junior forward Ayo Akinsete has six goals and has notched a pair of assists for a total of 14 points. Senior midfielder Eric Szeszycki has totaled 10 points (4 goals , 2 assists). • Freshman goalkeeper Mike Gustavson, this week’s C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, sports a 1.31 goals-against average in 1,580:54 of action. Gustavson has compiled 72 saves and recorded two shutouts. • Carolina has out-shot (272-234) and out-scored (33-22) the opposition. In league games, USC scored 24 goals while allowing just nine.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a team with the travel schedule that South Carolina is in the midst of enduring. On Nov. 2, the Gamecocks left by bus on a trip to Miami, Fla., for their Nov. 4 match at Florida International. After Friday’s win over FIU, Carolina boarded the bus on Saturday to drive to Orlando, Fla., for Sunday afternoon’s match at UCF. Following the win over UCF, the team made its way back to Columbia, arriving just before midnight. After attending class on Monday, the Gamecocks are set to board a plane to Dallas first thing Tuesday morning. All told, Carolina will have traveled a total of 2,311 miles in a week’s time and played three matches in six days, with potential to play five matches in 10 days.

The Conference USA Tournament will be a homecoming of sorts for several Carolina players. South Carolina has eight native Texans on its roster. Included in that group are:

Seniors Eric Szeszycki (Round Rock) and Josh Alcala (Buda, Texas/Hays), juniors Mike Sambursky (Katy/Cypress Springs), Stephen Sprague (Dallas/Lake Highlands) and Ryan Leeton (Midland), sophomore Daniel Upchurch (Dallas/Greenhill) and freshmen David Smith (Arlington/Summitt) and Kevan Hawkins (Denton/Ryan).

• Kentucky is the No. 7 seed in the Conference USA Tournament. The Wildcats have an overall record of 6-7-5.
• The Wildcats finished tied for sixth in the league regular season standings, but Memphis owned the tiebreaker after winning the regular season contest between the two teams.
• Reilly O’Neill leads UK in scoring with 13 points on four goals and five assists. Michael D’Agostino is second with 10 points on two goals and a team-best six assists.
• Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum sports a 1.04 goals-against average to go with 71 saves and five shutouts in 2005.
• Ian Collins is in his 12th season as the head coach at Kentucky.

South Carolina holds a 3-0-0 record all-time against the Wildcats, including a 1-0 victory on Oct. 14 in Columbia. Carolina defeated the Wildcats, 2-0, in Lexington on Oct. 11, 1992. USC also won the inaugural match in the series on Nov. 11, 1991, 6-0.

South Carolina shut out Kentucky, 1-0, in Columbia on Oct. 14 in the regular season meeting between the two teams.

Senior forward Josh Alcala scored the game-winning goal in the 68th minute of play to extend the Gamecocks’ unbeaten streak to seven games.

In what was a physical, defense-dominated battle, Alcala broke the stalemate with his third goal of the year at the 67:30 mark. Junior forward Mike Sambursky set up the score by dribbling the ball along the end line and dishing it off to Alcala inside the six-yard box on the near post. Alcala’s first offering was knocked wide, but his second try fell into the back of the net. Both Alcala and Sambursky have scored 12 points to tie for the team lead.

USC freshman goalkeeper Mike Gustavson came up with a big save late in the match to preserve his first shutout of the season. The Aiken, S.C., native made four saves on the night.

Carolina led Kentucky in the shots category, 9-8, and both teams attempted four corner kicks. The Wildcats had 21 fouls to the Gamecocks’ 19.

Senior Josh Alcala was Conference USA’s leading scorer in league games. The Buda, Texas, product racked up 18 points in nine league games. Alcala netted six goals, which tied for second among conference players, and collected six assists, the most of any league player. Teammate Mike Sambursky totaled 15 points in league play, good for third among C-USA players.

South Carolina led Conference USA with a 0.98 goals-against average in league contests. In its last six outings, the Gamecock defense gave up only four goals and recorded two shutouts, against Kentucky (1-0, Oct. 14) and ninth-ranked SMU (3-0, Oct. 16). Overall, USC has a 1.31 GAA. Senior Greg Reece and juniors Ryan Leeton, Makan Hislop and Ralph Pace patrol USC’s back line.

Josh Alcala and Mike Sambursky both hit the 20-point mark over the weekend. The tandem becomes the first pair of Gamecock players to reach the 20-point mark since the 2001 season. Jordan Quinn (29 points) and Ryan Daley (28 points) were the last Carolina players to achieve the feat.

The 2005 season also marks the first time Carolina has had a single player hit the 20-point mark since the 2001 season.

South Carolina has scored 14 goals during its current four-match win streak, while allowing only three. In Conference USA play, the Gamecocks out-scored the opposition, 24-9. Carolina has put up 32 goals during its last 12 matches, an average of nearly 2.7 per game.

Goalkeeper Mike Gustavson has collected 72 saves this season, the second-most in school history by a freshman goalkeeper. Gustavson is just two saves shy of the best effort by a Gamecock rookie, David Turner’s 74 stops in 1990.

South Carolina is the only Conference USA team to go undefeated on the road during league play. Carolina posted a 4-0-1 record away from home, with wins over East Carolina, UAB, FIU and UCF. The Gamecocks’ lone tie came at Memphis.

South Carolina head coach Mark Berson won his 375th career match on Oct. 28 against Tulsa. Berson, now in his 28th season at USC’s only men’s soccer coach, has a record of 378-142-44 at Carolina. Including one season at The Citadel, Berson’s career record stands at 389-147-44. Coming into the season, he ranked No. 5 among active Division I coaches with 379 wins. Berson was also 12th on the all-time wins list heading into 2005.

South Carolina has scored 21 of its 33 goals this season in the second half. In Conference USA play, the Gamecocks scored seven goals in the first compared to 17 in the final 45 minutes.

Josh Alcala, Eric Szeszycki, Ralph Pace, Makan Hislop, Ryan Leeton, Greg Reece, Ayo Akinsete and Mike Gustavson have started all 17 matches for the Gamecocks this season.

South Carolina swept Conference USA’s weekly honors, the league office announced Monday. Junior forward Mike Sambursky is this week’s Offensive Player of the Week and freshman goalkeeper Mike Gustavson picked up Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Sambursky scored a total of three goals in South Carolina’s wins at FIU last week. The junior scored his sixth goal of the season against FIU and tallied a pair of goals, including the game-winner, against UCF.

Gustavson allowed only two goals and made 13 saves in the Gamecocks’ pair of wins. He finished conference play with an 0.98 goals-against average, the second best among league goalkeepers. Gustavson owns a 1.35 goals-against average in all games and has a pair of shutouts.