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March 1, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team played its first spring exhibition game Saturday at Blanchard Woods Park, defeating Georgia Southern 3-0 behind a strong collective outing.

“I’m happy of the effort,” head coach Shelley Smith said. “At this time of the year you worry about how they’ll do on the field for 90 minutes. This group held up well and worked hard. That says a lot about the work they’ve done in the weight room and their desire to continue to improve. That bodes well not only for themselves but also for the better of the program.”

The two teams played three 30-minute periods in a game hosted by the Augusta Patriots Soccer Club. Graduating seniors Courtney Cobbs and Ashley Kirk, who were two players that competed with the Gamecocks Saturday, both coach in the Augusta club, giving them an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of their players as well as the other young players that took in the game.

“We’d really have to thank the Augusta Patriots Soccer Club for hosting the event for us and Georgia Southern,” Smith said. “Andrew Hammer and Matt Kolinoski have been great supporters of our program. We’re happy to play in a college showcase for the club and they did a great job hosting the event.”

Three different Gamecocks scored in the match, beginning with a Kim Miller penalty kick in the second period. Miller’s goal was the result of the aggressive play up top from rising junior Shannon Bigbie, a Lexington native. Bigbie, who hit the game-winning goal last season against UNLV, has been a bright spot for Carolina this year since entering the starting lineup against Ole Miss. The Gamecocks went 4-1-1 to close the regular season after she entered the starting 11.

Shannon Bigbie did a great job to be aggressive in the final third and had a great attacking attitude,” Smith said. “She got tripped in the box and set up a PK so she deserves a lot of credit for that goal.”

Samantha Diaz-Matosas gave Carolina its second goal of the period after knocking in the rebound of a shot by Brittiny Rhoades that hit the post. A rising junior, Diaz-Matosas regularly played a defensive role for Carolina in 2007 but has the ability to move around the field. She started all 22 matches in 2006 at forward. Rhoades, a Freshman All-America selection this year, also moved around the field Saturday.

Brittiny Rhoades did a great job for us today,” Smith said. “She played up top for a while. She made a great run off a combination from Courtney Cobbs and Ashley Kirk. Cobbs played a great ball to Brittiny who was playing up top on the left. Courtney passed the ball between two defenders, Brittiny hit a shot that deflected off the near post and Samantha hit the rebound shot in. She was in great position and moved up to pass well. One thing about the two of them is that I like the versatility she and Brittiny have to play upfield and in the back.”

Carolina hit the board again in the final 10 minutes of the third period. Bigbie took a corner kick on the right side of the field that sailed directly over the goalkeeper’s head as Kacie Brewer headed it in for the score. The goal was reminiscent of Brewer’s goal against Marshall that she headed into the net in the final 10 minutes of the match off a Danila Monteiro corner kick.

In addition to the movements of Rhoades and Diaz-Matosas, Carolina saw action for the first time from four Gamecocks. Goalkeepers Mollie Patton and Honour Trosper split time between the posts with Patton taking the first and third periods. Two players returned to the field after missing the 2007 season with injuries.

“Today was the first day that Maggie Blackwell played with our program after suffering a broken leg last preseason,” Smith said. “It was nice to see her and Aly Shattls on the field. Aly is returning from an ACL injury and has done well in working to get back.”

Another Gamecock that missed part of the 2007 season before making her debut in the Marshall game was rising sophomore Brooke Jacobs. She played in 15 matches after recovering from a knee injury and made a quick impact for the Gamecocks, recording two assists in her first collegiate game. She also hit the game-winning goal against Arkansas on Senior Day.

Brooke Jacobs looked nice out there as well,” Smith said. “She’s getting back to 100 percent after her injury in high school. She played the second half of last season and played well for us, but she wasn’t really at 100 percent. It will be nice to have her out on the field with the dimension that she can add to our offense once she gets completely healthy.”

The Gamecocks will continue its spring season when it travels to the College of Charleston on Friday, March 21. That game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff as Carolina continues to work on improvement during the exhibition season.

“We don’t have a lot of numbers in the spring so we had to play people in different positions and give players more time on the field,” Smith said. “We played well. The players here did well and everyone played good minutes. They’re working hard. The purpose of these spring exhibitions is to take them as a learning experience. You’re not really concerned about scores; you use it to try new things and work on getting better. It was a great first step as we prepare for next season.”