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Aug. 31, 2007

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team opens the 2007 season Saturday at 12 noon against No. 1 North Carolina at Robert Allison Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. The match will be webcast on ACC Select, available for a single-event charge of $4.99. The meeting marks the second time that the Gamecocks and Tar Heels will face off, with North Carolina owning the 1-0 series advantage.

The Gamecocks return 16 letterwinners and nine starters from last season’s 11-6-5 team that advanced to the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the first time in school history. Coach Shelley Smith enters her seventh season at South Carolina with a 97-84-17 record. Her squad went undefeated at home in 2006, posting an 8-0-3 record at Stone Stadium. Carolina is led by senior midfielder Ashley Kirk, a three-time All-SEC performer and 2007 Preseason All-SEC selection.

On opening the season
“We are excited to get started with the season. Our players have worked hard and look forward to playing other opposition. With the game being against North Carolina, it is that much more exciting for them to play the top-ranked team in the country.”

On facing North Carolina
“Going into North Carolina, it’s an excellent opportunity to challenge against the best competition. It’s someone in our region who’s always number one. This is a good opportunity to take advantage of competing against a team like that. You want to challenge yourself in the region, especially against a team that’s not far away from home. A demanding schedule can gain that respect for your program. It makes our conference that much stronger to show that an SEC team can play the top team in the country.”

On playing on the road
“We have to do better on the road. It should prepare us more. It’s always good to play a Top 20 program. We’re excited for the challenge and ready to give our best effort.”

On being prepared to play the defending national champions
“We wouldn’t have scheduled this game in the past. I think that this team can handle the challenge of a team like North Carolina. With our teams in the past, we weren’t ready to compete with a program like that, but I think that mentally it’s a challenge that we can handle.”

On team leadership
“We feel like we have a good group of upperclassmen with leadership. Being tested early is a good thing. Obviously we’re the underdogs in this match-up, but we’re going in trying for the upset.”

South Carolina enters 2007 with an all-time record of 6-5-1 in season openers. Two games have gone to overtime – College of Charleston (2001) and Clemson (2003). In home contests, the Gamecocks boast a perfect 5-0 record, outscoring opponents 17-2. When heading on the road to open the season, Carolina carries a 1-4-1 record overall. The Gamecocks dropped their first neutral contest in 2006. Under Coach Smith, the Gamecocks have gone 3-2-1 in season openers. North Carolina will be the third ranked opponent to start the season against USC. The Gamecocks previously fell to #20 Clemson (2003) and #13 Illinois (2006), both by one point.

The University of South Carolina placed two members on the first soccer coaches preseason All-Southeastern Conference team, the conference office announced Thursday. Senior midfielder Ashley Kirk and sophomore defender Blakely Mattern were Carolina’s selections to the 14-member All-SEC team.

The North Carolina Tar Heels return almost its entire roster after winning the 2006 National Championship. Junior midfielder Yael Averbuch, the 2006 National Player of the Year, has been selected as the Soccer Buzz 2007 Preseason National Player of the Year. Two other UNC players have also been named to the Soccer Buzz Preseason All-America Team – senior defender Jessica Maxwell and sophomore midfielder Tobin Heath.

The match-up betwen the Gamecocks and Tar Heels will be available live on The event is available to view by purchasing a single event pass for $4.99. With the purchase of a single event pass, the user will have access to the live webcast and the on-demand webcast of the match for 30 days.