Aug. 23, 2008
WILMINGTON, N.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team opened the 2008 campaign with a scoreless draw Saturday against UNC Wilmington at a windy UNCW Soccer Stadium.
South Carolina outshot the Seahawks 17-4 but couldn’t capitalize on their looks as the match moves the Gamecocks to 7-5-2 all-time in season openers. The overtime match was the first for South Carolina against a non-conference opponent in the regular season since they battled Charlotte to a 2-1 victory on Sept. 19, 2004.
“It was a team effort,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “We improved from the beginning of the match, so we’ll take that into the next game. We created a lot of opportunities but couldn’t put it away, so that was a disappointment. Wilmington played a tough match and got lucky on a couple, and we were unfortunate to not put those away. We are still experimenting with our lineups and will keep working hard. We were able to see what alot of people could do and could play many of our players. To hold them off is a positive thing we can take from this. We’ll learn from it and go home and get ready for next week.”
The Gamecocks controlled the pace of the match for the opening 25 minutes. Brooke Jacobs recorded the first shot of the season for South Carolina in the fifth minute that missed the mark, but a Blakely Mattern strike off a Brittiny Rhoades corner kick was spot on before UNC Wilmington keeper Emily Pratt recorded the save. Jacobs saw herself behind the Seahawk defense again in the 15th minute on a pass played by Danila Monteiro, but her open shot on goal was saved by the keeper.
Four minutes later, Shannon Bigbie split the defense with a dribble move on the left flank and centered to Monteiro whose shot was also stopped by Pratt. The Seahawks used the momentum to attack the Carolina defense, getting their first shot on goal in the 25th minute that was saved by Mollie Patton. A redshirt sophomore playing in her first game for the Gamecocks, Patton was tested in the 37th minute when Wilmington’s Nicole Panek stole the ball in the penalty area for a point-blank shot from eight yards out. Patton saved the shot to end the Seahawk threat. She ended the game with four saves, all on close range shots.
“Mollie had a great game,” Smith said. “She saved us in the first half when we gave them an opportunity out the back. That’s what you need out of your goalkeeper. It was a great game for her and I’m glad she had a chance to get her first collegiate game out of the way, as well as many of our other newcomers.”
Neither team was able to keep control of the ball for the majority of the second half before UNC Wilmington got two good looks on goal in a 10 minute span. In the 64th, a free kick bounced around the box before Patton was able to catch it in the air. Ten minutes later another free kick landed in the box, but Patton again saved the header.
Carolina got its best look on goal in the 85th after Kayla Grimsley was fouled just outside the penalty box. Shortly after, Grimsley had two consecutive looks on goal from 10 yards out. The first was saved by Pratt and the second went high to end the attacking opportunities in regulation.
The Gamecocks wasted no time in the first overtime period and almost ended the game when Grimsley played a ball to Monteiro behind the defense in the 92nd minute. One on one with the keeper, Monteiro snuck a shot past her, but the shot banged off the left post to keep the Seahawks alive. UNC Wilmington then gave the Gamecocks a scare of their own as a cross bounced high in the wind and grazed Patton’s fingertips. A Seahawk attacker had an open chance on the back post but was denied by junior defender Blakely Mattern.
The game encountered a 15-minute delay in the first overtime period when Wilmington’s Jenna Evans went down with a leg injury in the 98th minute. Following the delay, neither team saw a chance on goal until Jacobs hit two shots in a one-minute span in the 108th minute that were both saved by Pratt.
South Carolina returns to the pitch Thursday when the Gamecocks host East Carolina in the home opener. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Stone Stadium.