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Nov. 15, 2007

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Tournament Central – Live Stats and Audio Broadcast

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The 23rd-ranked South Carolina women’s soccer team earned its first at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and will face Duke Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Gamecocks and Blue Devils will play at the Turner Soccer Complex in Athens, Ga., with the winner advancing to compete Sunday against the Georgia/Alabama A&M winner. South Carolina earned an at-large bid after posting a 14-6-2 overall record that included a win at North Carolina and Carolina’s first victory over Tennessee to propel them to the SEC Tournament semifinals.

Live stats and audio broadcast can be found online at

Carolina and Duke (8-5-6) are meeting for just the second time in regulation compeition. Duke, earning their 14th NCAA bid, defeated Carolina 5-1 in Chapel Hill in the 2000 regular season. The Blue Devils finished seventh in the ACC with a 3-3-4 record, falling to Wake Forest in the ACC Quarterfinals. The ACC led all conferences with eight tournament bids, followed by six from the SEC.

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.

Duke enters the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid after carrying an 8-5-6 record. The Blue Devils are led by second team All-ACC selection Elizabeth Redmond’s team highs of six goals, 11 assists and 23 points. Unlike Carolina’s 20 yellow cards, Duke has only received four cautions this season. Duke has played in eight overtime games this season, holding a 1-1-6 record in extra periods. Carolina has played in five overtime games and sports a 0-3-2 record.

Sophomore defender Blakely Mattern was named the 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, as announced by the league office Tuesday (11/5). Mattern becomes the first South Carolina player to earn a conference player of the year award. A Freshman All-America selection last season, Mattern leads a defense that has posted a school-record 11 shutouts this season and holds a 0.67 goals against average. Mattern was also a Preseason All-SEC pick and earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors in week two.

For the first time in school history, four players have earned All-SEC honors for USC, highlighted by senior midfielder Ashley Kirk and sophomore defender Blakely Mattern earning first team honors. It is the first time since 2004 that a Gamecock has earned first team honors and the first time that two earned it the same season.

Senior forward Darcel Mollon earned second team honors and defender Brittiny Rhoades was named to the All-Freshman team. Kirk has earned All-SEC honors each year of her career while it is the second for Mattern. Both players were also named ot the SEC Coaches Preseason Team in August. Mollon and Rhoades pick up the honor for the first time.

Senior goalkeeper Laura Armstrong moved into a tie for first place on the South Carolina all-time goalkeeping lists for single-season shutouts (seven) and career shutouts (15) with last week’s shutout of No. 16 Tennessee. Armstrong’s 0.49 goals against average ranks first in the SEC and ninth nationally. The Greenwood native earned Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Season honorable mention honors this season.

South Carolina was picked to finish last in the SEC East preseason coaches poll. The Gamecocks responded by posting five wins in conference to finish fourth in the East and sixth overall to earn their second consecutive SEC Tournament bid. Coach Shelley Smith’s squad defeated Tennessee in the quarterfinals and became one of six SEC teams to advance to the NCAA College Cup.

South Carolina remains in the national rankings for the third consecutive week, jumping to No. 23 by Soccer Buzz and re-entering Soccer America at No. 21. Carolina dropped out four weeks ago following a tie and win at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, ending a school-record six consecutive weeks ranked in the polls.

Despite not receiving votes in the preseason, Carolina entered the polls after knocking off then-No. 1 North Carolina and ETSU to open the season. USC peaked that week at No. 13 in the Soccer America poll, No. 21 in Soccer Buzz and No. 22 in the NSCAA/adidas Coaches poll.

Carolina again achieved new highs the next week in all polls and have poll highs this year at No. 9 in Soccer Times (Wk 3), No. 10 in the NSCAA poll (Wk 3) and No. 16 in Soccer Buzz (Wk 3). The Gamecocks have peaked at No. 7 (Week 3-Soccer America).

This week marks the 11th time ever being ranked in the polls. Prior to this season, South Carolina had achieved a No. 29 ranking in Soccer Buzz last season the week of Oct. 2.

South Carolina’s sits at No. 22 in the latest RPI rankings released Nov. 5. Carolina drops slightly from their 15th spot in the last ranking and is the fourth highest SEC team behind Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. USC has played three teams in the Top 10 and five in the Top 25.

Senior Darcel Mollon returns to the squad after redshirting the 2006 season with an injury. Mollon led the team in scoring in 2005 with 14 points and is one of USC’s most dynamic playmakers. The Trinidad National Team member currently holds the team lead in goals (10) and points (23). She became the first Gamecock since 1999 to record 10 goals and 20 points in a season.

Freshman defender Brittiny Rhoades tallied her first points as Gamecock in notching the game-winning assists at Ole Miss and Arkansas. Rhoades has started 20 of 21 games at left back and has proven to be an All-SEC caliber defender as Carolina’s best one-on-one lockdown defender. She earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors and TopDrawer All-Rookie Team of the Season.