Nov. 12, 2005
DALLAS – No. 24 South Carolina (11-6-2) will compete for the Conference USA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament when it meets Tulsa (7-6-7) on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in Dallas, Texas, at Westcott Field. The game will be televised live nationally on College Sports Television (CSTV). CSTV can be found 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. Fans can also follow the action live via Gametracker on South Carolina’s official athletic web site, USCsports.com
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP South Carolina came into the Conference USA Tournament as the No. 2 seed after finishing second in the regular season with a 7-1-1 record. In the first round of the tournament, Carolina played to a 0-0 tie with No. 7-seed Kentucky, but advanced in a shootout, 3-0. In semifinal action, the Gamecocks defeated No. 6 Memphis, 2-1. South Carolina will be playing for a conference tournament title for first time ever on Sunday. A longtime independent, the Gamecocks are in their first season playing in Conference USA.
The No. 8-seed Tulsa Golden Hurricane finished eighth in regular season play with a 2-4-3 record. Tulsa moved past No. 1 seed and regular season champion SMU on its home field on Wednesday. The Mustangs and Golden Hurricane played to a 2-2 tie and TU advanced in the shootout, 5-4. Tulsa shut down Marshall, 3-0, in the semifinals.
South Carolina won the regular season meeting between the two teams, 4-1, in Columbia on Oct. 28.
SOUTH CAROLINA UPDATE The Gamecocks bring an 11-6-2 record into the Championship match and will be playing their fifth match in the last 10 days. After starting the season 0-5-0, South Carolina has fought back to post a 11-1-2 record in its last 14 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 Nov. 7. USC is 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 SMU. The Gamecocks were also the only league team to defeat SMU in the regular season.
â€¢ Senior Josh Alcala, South Carolina’s leading scorer with 23 points (7 goals, 9 assists), is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury in the semifinals against Memphis.
â€¢ Junior Mike Sambursky, a first-team all-Conference USA pick, has scored 22 points on seven goals and eight assists. Junior forward Ayo Akinsete is also tied for the team lead with seven goals and has notched a pair of assists for a total of 16 points. Senior midfielder Eric Szeszycki has totaled 10 points (4 goals , 2 assists).
â€¢ Goalkeeper Mike Gustavson, the C-USA Freshman of the Year, sports a 1.21 GAA and has three shutouts. In USC’s semifinal match, he set the school record for saves in a season by a freshman with 79.
â€¢ Carolina has out-shot (304-261) and out-scored (35-23) the opposition. In league games, USC scored 24 goals while allowing just nine.
ROAD WARRIORS 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 a Nov. 6 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 boarded a plane to Dallas first thing Tuesday morning. All told, Carolina traveled a total of 2,311 miles from Nov. 2 to Nov. 8 and is set to play its fifth game in the last 10 days against Tulsa on Sunday.
TEXAS CONNECTION The Conference USA Tournament has been a homecoming of sorts for several Carolina players. South Carolina has eight native Texans on its roster, including:
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).
TOUGH LUCK South Carolina lost its leading scorer senior Josh Alcala to a season-ending knee injury on Friday in the match with Memphis. Ironically, it marks the second straight season Carolina has lost its leading scorer to a knee injury in the postseason. In 2004, freshman Seabstian Lindholm went down in practice three days before the Gamecocks’ first round NCAA Tournament game. Lindholm re-injured his knee over the summer and has missed the 2005 season.
GUSTAVSON SETS FROSH RECORD Goalkeeper Mike Gustavson has collected 78 saves this season most in school history by a freshman goalkeeper. The record was previously held by David Turner, who had 74 stops in 1990.
GOALS = WINS When the Gamecocks have mounted any offense this season, it has bred success. South Carolina has come out a winner in all but one game this season when it has scored a goal. Five of Carolina’s six defeats were via shutout.
REECE, GUSTAVSON HIGHLIGHT ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS FOR CAROLINA Six South Carolina men’s soccer players were named to the all-Conference USA team, South Carolina also collected two of the four individual awards as senior Greg Reece earned Defensive Player of the Year honors and goalkeeper Mike Gustavson was named C-USA’s Freshman of the Year.
Reece was joined on the all-Conference USA first team by teammates Josh Alcala and Mike Sambursky. In addition to earning Freshman-of-the-Year honors, Gustavson made the second team and the all-Freshman team.
Junior defender Ryan Leeton and junior midfielder Ralph Pace both made the all-Conference third team.
South Carolina tied with Conference USA regular season champion SMU for the most players on the All-Conference USA first team with three, and with the most representatives on the first, second and third teams combined.
GAMECOCK COACH Mark Berson 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 379-142-45 at Carolina. Including one season at The Citadel, Berson’s career record stands at 390-147-45. 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.