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Nov. 12, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team received its second-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament as the 2007 selections for the 64-team tournament were announced Monday night. The Gamecocks (14-6-2) received an at-large bid and will open play on Friday (Nov. 16) against Duke (8-5-6) in the first round at Turner Soccer Complex in the Georgia regional in Athens at 4:30 p.m. Georgia and Alabama A&M will play in the second game with the two winners to meet on Sunday in the second round game at 1:30 p.m.

“We’re excited and relieved,” head coach Shelley Smith said. “After last year getting so close and being so disappointed, it was such a relief to (get the bid), especially with such a large group of players playing their last season. We’re relieved for them, for our program, coaches and everyone that works with South Carolina soccer. We’ve been working hard towards this goal for a while. We know we have the talent. We’re just excited to get a shot at the national championship like the other 63 teams are. If you make it then you have a chance.”

South Carolina last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1998 after going 11-7-1 in the regular season.

“It’s exciting,” senior midfielder and first team All-SEC selection Ashley Kirk said. “It’s what we’ve been working for. This has been a goal since I was a freshman, and we finally accomplished it. It’s a dream come true.”

The Gamecocks have turned in an historic season on their way to the tournament. After defeating defending national champion North Carolina in the season opener at Chapel Hill, Coach Smith’s team has tied a school-record with 14 wins and peaked at No. 7 in the national polls. Carolina defeated Tennessee for the first time in school history to advance to the SEC tournament semifinals last weekend and had two players – Ashley Kirk and Kim Miller – named to the all-tournament team. In addition, Kirk, Darcel Mollon, Blakely Mattern and Brittiny Rhoades earned All-SEC honors to give Carolina four selections for the first time in school history. Mattern was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year while helping the team to a 0.70 goals against average, the second-best total in school history.

Carolina and Duke have met twice before, once in a 2000 regular season game and in an exhibition match in 2005. Duke won the first meeting 5-1 in the Coach Sue Kelly’s final season; the Gamecocks defeated the Blue Devils 2-0 in Durham in 2005.

“We’re excited to be in,” Smith said. “We’ll prepare as much as we can for a good Duke team. They have more experience in the tournament than we do, but every year is a different year. We felt we had the opportunity to get in last year and we didn’t, so we’ll make the most of our opportunity this year.”

The Gamecocks have played in Athens once this season in an SEC match against Georgia. The Bulldogs won that match in double-overtime, but the Turner Soccer Complex is not foreign to Carolina.

“We’ve had tremendous fan support all year,” Smith said. “The parents and friends of this team have been amazing. I think they’ll be excited to know that it’s not too far from Columbia. I expect a great crowd with a lot of support. People are so excited for the team and we’re hoping everyone’s free Friday night to make it happen. It’s not a field we’re not familiar with, so we’re excited to go to Athens. They have a great facility and we’ll make the most of the opportunity.”

Tickets for NCAA Tournament games will cost $7 for adults and $3 for children and students with a valid I.D. Fans can purchase tickets at the venue on Friday or can place orders in advance by calling the UGA Ticket Office at 706-542-1231. Tickets purchased for Friday’s first-round action will be valid for both games.

NCAA Soccer Championship Schedule at Athens (Georgia)
First Round (Friday, November 16)
Game 1 – Duke vs. South Carolina – 4:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Georgia vs. Alabama A&M – 7 p.m.

Second Round (Sunday, November 18)
Game 3 – Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner – 1:30 p.m.