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Aug. 18, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. – With the season opener two weeks away, the South Carolina women’s soccer team is continuing preparations with preseason practice before heading to Chapel Hill for a date with North Carolina on Sept. 1.

“We’re looking good,” Coach Shelley Smith said. “We’re fit and working hard. It’s just a matter of coming together after some time off and remembering how each other connects and reading each other. That will come back. Everyday you see things improving and that’s what you want to get the first couple of days.”

The Gamecocks have battled in near 100-degree weather since opening practice last Wednesday (August 15), and the coaching staff has enjoyed the competitiveness despite having five players sit out the past four with varying injuries.

“Most of our people are healing,” Smith said. “We’ve been getting healthier. Unfortunately we’re starting out less healthier than we have been in the past, but we’re getting through it.”

Currently in preseason practice, the Gamecocks are working the field twice a day with a morning and late afternoon session.

“In the morning we try to get the most out of them physically while they’re fresh,” Smith said. “(The second session) has been the time to get out there and work on some technical things or running through situations. The morning is more aggressive running and harder, more intense sessions.”

Early Saturday morning, the coaches were able to see the team in on a full field as the scrimmaged for the first time at Stone Stadium. With nine starters and 18 letterwinners returning, the staff was able to get a good look at how the experienced team worked with the seven newcomers.

“The freshmen have blended well,” Smith said. “The team has good depth. I think the good thing this year right now is that you have a lot of experience coming back. People are fighting to make that starting 11. The competitiveness is helpful.”

As the team continues to progress leading into the opener, one position that Smith and goalkeepers coach Mat Cosgriff will keep an eye on is that of keeper. The Gamecocks set a school record with 16 goals allowed in 2006, courtesy of the efforts of senior captains Laura Armstrong and Lindsay Thorstenson who have combined to log every minute in goal for USC over the past three seasons.

“The two seniors are really doing well,” Smith said. “They’ve established themselves as the most experienced in goal. If they stay healthy and on track they should get the most playing time.”

Along with redshirt freshman Mollie Patton and newcomer Honour Trosper, Coach Smith’s squad will relish that security in the net as practice continues and the season approaches.