Aug. 19, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Monday marked the end of two-a-days as the South Carolina women’s soccer team begins to wrap up preseason training and prepare for Saturday’s season opener at UNC Wilmington.
The Gamecocks worked for a week and a half on the practice fields and at Stone Stadium as the team looks to build upon the success of last year’s NCAA Tournament squad that finished 14-6-3. Beginning with the first 8:45 a.m. practice on Thursday, Aug. 7, Coach Shelley Smith’s team has used the time together to work not only on fitness and training but also on team building as she welcomes 15 newcomers in a class that was ranked No. 24 nationally by Soccer Buzz magazine.
“We had a solid preseason,” Smith said. “We’re obviously a young team this year but the players have responded well to training and I’m excited for the season.”
Despite a small rash of injuries that held a few newcomers out of action for portions of preseason training, Smith looks forward to Saturday’s game at UNC Wilmington when she has a chance to see the returning players and freshmen compete together for the first time. Among the returners that Smith singled out as having a strong preseason was forward/midfielder Shannon Bigbie, a junior from Lexington, S.C., that was especially strong for the Gamecocks last season. Bigbie played in all 23 games and brought a spark to the team after entering the starting lineup against Ole Miss as the Gamecocks finished the season with a 5-2-2 record.
Among the newcomers, midfield is a hot area of contention with the loss of seniors Ashley Kirk and Erin Sullivan, paving the way for players such as Kira Campbell, Kayla Grimsley, Bonny Lepley, Lolly Holland and former South Carolina cross country runner Courtney Bowen to see the field early this year.
“Preseason has been really good,” Campbell, a freshman from Lexington High School, said. “My favorite part has been bonding with the team. We have such a big class that we just need to jell as a team. It’s been good.”