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Aug. 23, 2006

Match #1: No. 24 South Carolina vs. No. 5 Clemson
Friday, Aug. 25 • 7 p.m.
Stone Stadium • Columbia, S.C.

Weekly Notes in PDF Format
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The No. 24 South Carolina men’s soccer team kicks off the 2006 campaign with a bang. On Friday, Aug. 25, the Gamecocks host No. 5 Clemson in Columbia at Stone Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

A live audio broadcast of the match will be available online at Fans can also follow the match live via Gametracker on the site.

A number of special promotions are planned for the South Carolina vs. Clemson match:
• The first 500 Carolina fans to arrive at the match will receive a free “Beat Clemson” t-shirt and a Gamecock memory band.
• The first 300 fans will receive a South Carolina Soccer magnet.
4Carolina will host a Pregame Fun Fest that includes inflatables, face painting, games and prizes from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
• The first 1,000 fans to bring an old key to the match will receive a free Marble Slab Creamery coupon. South Carolina Soccer supports Children’s Chance, a charity devoted to helping the families of South Carolina children facing cancer. Old keys will be recycled by Metal Removal Technologies with proceeds going to Children’s Chance.

South Carolina is coming off a 12-7-2 season in which it won the Conference USA Tournament Championship and made the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in school history. Eight starters and 16 letterwinners return this season, and head coach Mark Berson welcomes nine freshmen to Columbia.

The Gamecocks open the season ranked in three polls. Carolina is No. 24 to open the year, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Soccer Times. The Gamecocks are No. 29 in the College Soccer News’ Top 30 preseason poll.

Previewing the Clemson game:

“I think we’re two very similar teams,” head coach Mark Berson said. “They didn’t start off last season very well either, but they put together a great run down the stretch and a good run in the NCAA Tournament as well. They return a good core of players right down the field, as we do. It should be a very interesting match-up. I don’t think either team is weak at any spot. It should be a real battle.”

“We have a lot good depth. You’ll see a number of young players on Friday night. There will be even more as we move on throughout the year. We’re pleased with the future of this group and we’re anxious to get this season started. “

South Carolina’s 2006 roster includes two of its top three scorers from the 2005 season and a total of eight starters, including its goalkeeper. Four all-Conference USA players are back.

Senior forward/midfielder Mike Sambursky, a first-team all-Conference USA selection last season, led the Gamecocks with 24 points on eight goals and eight assists. Senior forward Ayo Akinsete, a three-year starter, was Carolina’s third-leading scorer with 16 points on seven goals and two assists. Senior midfielder Ralph Pace and senior defender Ryan Leeton started all 21 matches last season. Both players earned third-team all-Conference honors. Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Gustavson, the 2005 C-USA Freshman of the Year, played every minute of last season between the pipes and registered a 1.19 goals-against average to go with four shutouts. Senior back Makan Hislop and senior midfielder Rob Charest, both starters in 2005, are back as well.

Senior midfielder/forward Mike Sambursky and sophomore goalkeeper Mike Gustavson were recognized as preseason All-Americans by College Soccer News and Soccer America, respecitvely.

Sambursky was also voted Conference USA’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches and Gustavson joined Sambursky on the 11-player preseason all-conference team.

Sambursky led South Carolina in scoring last season, racking up 24 points on a team-high eight goals, including four game winners, and eight assists. He was voted a first-team all-Conference USA selection and made the All-South Region first team. Sambursky was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of Week for his performance in wins over Florida International and UCF. He also scored the game-winning goal in Carolina’s 1-0 victory over Tulsa in the Conference USA Tournament final.

Gustavson, the reigning Conference USA Freshman of Year, made the all-Conference USA second team in 2005. He played every minute (1,970:54) in goal for the Gamecocks last season and registered a 1.19 goals-against average. Gustavson also set at Gamecock freshman record with 88 saves. His 0.98 goals-against average in conference play ranked second among league netminders.

South Carolina head coach Mark Berson is closing in on career win No. 400. Berson enters the 2006 campaign with 391 career victories in 29 seasons as a collegiate coach, including 28 years at South Carolina. He ranks fifth on the career wins list among active Division I coaches and 21st all-time. His .708 winning percentage is 11th among active D-1 coaches. Berson’s record at Carolina 380-143-45. His career mark stands at 391-148-45, including one season at The Citadel.

South Carolina will rely on its six seniors for production and leadership this season. Ayo Akinsete, Rob Charest, Makan Hislop, Ryan Leeton, Ralph Pace and Mike Sambursky were all regulars in the starting 11 last season and three finished this season with all-conference laurels (Sambursky, Leeton and Pace). The group has combined to make 220 starts and play in 249 matches for the Garnet and Black. They have also scored 102 points on 40 goals and 22 assists.

Two Gamecock players, Sam Roca (Wayne, N.J.) and Mark Wiltse (Belle Meade, N.J.), have been named to the College Soccer News 100 Freshmen to Watch list.

Roca, a defender, was named the State Player of the Year by the New Jersey High School Coaches Association in 2005. The Wayne Valley High School graduate is also a four-year member of New Jersey’s State Olympic Development team.

Wiltse, a defender, is a four-time All-America selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006). After spending 2003-04 in residency with the United States Youth National Team program, he graduated from Montgomery High School in 2006. He was also two-time All-Star at the adidas Elite Soccer Program.

Seven Gamecock players call the Palmetto State home: sophomores Mike Gustavson (Aiken/South Aiken), Spencer Lewis (Irmo) and Brennan Williams (Columbia/Cardinal Newman) and freshmen Schuyler Reardon (Aiken/Aiken High), Matt Winstead (Columbia/Cardinal Newman), Trey Foster (Fort Mill) and Paddy Flynn (Columbia/Spring Valley).

Carolina hits the road for matches with Wofford (Aug. 28) and William and Mary (Sept. 2). The Gamecocks are back at home on Sept. 5 for a 7 p.m. match with Centenary.