Nov. 11, 2005
DALLAS – The South Carolina men’s soccer team beat Memphis, 2-1, Friday night at Westcott Field in Dallas, Texas, to earn the right to play for the Conference USA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Senior Ryan Deter scored the game-winner in the 62nd minute for the Gamecocks, who improved to 11-6-2 on the season. Memphis fell to 8-8-2 with loss.
“I’m very proud of the way the team rose to the occasion,” South Carolina Head Coach Mark Berson said. “Coming from behind in the semifinal game of a conference championship is a real accomplishment. It speaks to the team’s character, their determination and their fighting power. The fact that we answered (Memphis’ goal) so quickly was a statement that this team made tonight.”
Memphis struck first on Tripp Harkins’ goal just 5:54 into the match. The Gamecocks responded almost instantaneously, tying things up 11 seconds later. On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Alcala played a quick ball to Ayo Akinsete running down the left side. Akinsete kicked the ball into the right side of the goal, netting his seventh goal of the season.
It looked as if USC would go up another goal in the 19th minute when Alcala nailed the crossbar on a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box.
Carolina hit the crossbar again with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half. J.D. Moon whipped the ball into the box from the left side and Deter’s header found iron, bounced up and hit the cross bar again before Memphis goalkeeper Tyler Strom fell on it.
South Carolina out-shot Memphis, 8-6, in the first half, but the score remained tied, 1-1.
“We didn’t play real efficiently in the first half,” Berson said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but to the guys’ credit, in the second half, they really sharpened up and picked up a lot of momentum. We didn’t let the fact that we didn’t play well, that we hit the bar twice, bother us. I’m proud of the guys for that.”
Deter’s goal at the 61:08 proved to be the difference. The senior from Raleigh, N.C., rifled a shot from just inside the top of the 25-yards out and into the lower left portion of the goal. It was Deter’s third goal of the season and the 19th of his career.
The Gamecocks out-shot Memphis, 17-16, and took four corner kicks while the Tigers had four. South Carolina freshman goalkeeper Mike Gustavson finished with four saves. Strom collected six saves for Memphis.
Alcala went down with a season-ending knee injury in the 22nd minute. The senior was a first-team all-Conference USA selection is South Carolina’s leading scorer with 23 points (7 goals, 9 assists).
“It was a bittersweet feeling for the entire team with Josh Alcala out for the season now with a knee injury,” Berson said. “He’s meant a lot to our team. I thought our guys responded in the second half without Josh to win the game. I think that says a lot about our character.”
South Carolina will play for a conference tournament title in men’s soccer for the first time ever on Sunday. A long-time independent, USC is in its inaugural season playing Conference USA. Carolina, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will meet No. 8-seed Tulsa in the title match. The match is set for a 2 p.m. ET kickoff and will be televised live nationally on College Sports Television. CSTV can be found on on DirecTV (Channel 610), DISH Network (Channel 152) and Time Warner Cable in Columbia, S.C. (Channel 150, which is on the Digital Sports Tier). Check with your local cable company for further information.
“(Playing for a championship) is what we came into Conference USA to do,” Berson said. “We’re proud to represent the University of South Carolina and the state of South Carolina in Conference USA. It’ll be a big challenge. We’ve played a lot of games in short period of time, under intense conditions and all of them on the road. This group has a mental strength that I think will be important in that game. I can promise you we’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”