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June 4, 2008

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team will again test itself with a challenging season as the 2008 schedule features nine opponents that reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament, including national runner-up Florida State. The Gamecocks will host 11 games this season at Stone Stadium including the fourth annual Carolina Cup with a contest against in-state rival Clemson.

“The 2008 fall schedule is once again quite competitive and should be a great challenge for our young team,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “We have a better balance of home and away games this fall compared to last season which will be a welcome change. Although, our most challenging non-conference game will come on the road when we face Florida State at the Auburn tournament. FSU is coming off a very successful season in 2007 after a strong showing once again in the regular season and an NCAA run that took them to the National Championship game. Our young team will need to mature quickly to meet this challenge as well as the rest of the top competition we will face in the non-conference season. We will be facing strong, out of region opponents in Marquette at the Auburn tournament and in hosting Boston University the weekend before. All of our non-conference opponents should ultimately prepare us well for the battles we will face in conference play.”

South Carolina opens its season in the state of North Carolina for the second consecutive year as they travel to UNC Wilmington on Saturday, Aug. 23 with kickoff slated for 2 p.m. The home opener is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. against East Carolina at Stone Stadium before the Gamecocks take on the first of three consecutive non-conference opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament in Boston University (August 31, 7 p.m.).

The Gamecocks host the Carolina Cup the first weekend of September and will compete against two in-state opponents that reached the postseason in Clemson (Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.) and Furman (Sept. 7, 2 p.m.). They then travel to Auburn, Ala., to face Marquette and Florida State in the Auburn Tournament from Sept. 12-14. A home date against East Tennessee State (Sept. 19) and road trip to Western Carolina (Sept. 21) concludes the non-conference portion of the schedule.

“We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to host the Carolina Cup this fall,” Smith said. “We will host rival Clemson on the Friday night, and as always, this should be an exciting matchup to highlight the tournament weekend. Furman and Francis Marion will be the other two programs involved in the cup, so it will be a great opportunity for fans to come see and cheer on four top college programs from the state of South Carolina.”

The SEC slate includes five teams that reached the NCAA Tournament and begins Sept. 26 with a home date against Tennessee followed by a match against Georgia (Sept. 28). Other home conference matches include Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU and Florida while the Gamecocks travel to Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas. The SEC Tournament will be held in Orange Beach, Ala., from November 7-11.

“I anticipate the SEC conference season to be another tight race for the SEC championship,” Smith said. “Every program is extremely competitive and seeming to improve once again with another tremendous pool of new talent joining the conference. With the parity among all the teams in the SEC, every point a team earns each weekend is so important. Our returning players have learned how important each minute of every game is and the challenge we have is to make sure our team as a whole, comprised of several freshmen players, will understand that early on.”

The Gamecocks return 12 letterwinners and six starters from the 2007 squad that reached the NCAA Tournament and tied a school record with 14 wins. Carolina will welcome 14 newcomers to the squad this year, including Soccer Buzz Top 75 recruit Kayla Grimsley, Top 150 recruit Dani Henry and Top 200 recruit Kira Campbell. The Gamecock recruiting class was ranked No. 24 in the nation and third in the Southeastern Conference by Soccer Buzz Magazine.

South Carolina will field only one senior in 2008 in midfielder Danila Monteiro, and also returns All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Blakely Mattern, Freshman All-America selection Brittiny Rhoades and SEC All-Tournament team selection Kim Miller.