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Aug. 28, 2008

Final Stats

COLUMBIA, S.C.Samantha Diaz-Matosas scored on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute as the South Carolina women’s soccer team continued its strong play at Stone Stadium in a 1-0 victory Thursday against East Carolina. The Gamecocks (1-0-1) improve to 10-3-1 in home openers and get their first victory of the season while the Pirates (2-1-0) drop their first match of the year.

In a match where they once again dominated in shot differential with a 15-3 edge, it was an ECU handball in the 18′ that ultimately led to Carolina’s first goal of the season. Maria Petroni played a ball at the top of the penalty box that was originally intended to be a shot, but the ball hit the hand of a Pirate defender inside the 18′ to set up the penalty kick at 42:31. Playing in the back line, Diaz-Matosas pushed up for her first career PK and snuck it past goalkeeper Amber Campbell for her first goal of the season. The strike came one game after Campbell, a preseason All C-USA selection, moved into first on the ECU record books with 23 career shutouts.

“Sam did a great job to step up and want to take the PK,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “She put the team on her shoulders and finished her opportunity. I’m happy for her and for Maria to set the opportunity up for our team. Luckily we did finish that very important opportunity.”

The win marks the second consecutive shutout to start the season for the Gamecocks, who have posted a 16-1-3 record at Stone Stadium since the start of the 2006 season. Carolina tied UNC Wilmington in the season opener despite also holding a significant advantage in shots at 17-4.

“We played very solid defense,” Smith said. “We limited them to very few opportunities. We have to give credit to our team defense, especially our back four. In addition to Sam, Ellen Fahey, Lindsay Small, Blakely Mattern and Brittiny Rhoades all won balls in the air. Their areal play really kept us in good position.”

The Gamecocks had early attempts on goal but could not capitalize on their fortunes. Carolina gave the Pirates an early scare in the fourth minute when Mattern split the defense with a pass to Kira Campbell inside the 18′. Campbell’s shot was blocked and deflected to Brooke Jacobs, but her attempt sailed high. Nearly 53 minutes later, Carolina had its best chance to score an insurance goal after a scramble in the penalty area culminated in Shannon Bigbie stealing the ball from the keeper. Bigbie got a shot off from 12 yards out but was denied by a Pirate defender to end the threat.

“We’re thrilled to get our first victory and continue our winning tradition at home,” Smith said. “Unfortunately we’re still trying to become as dangerous as we can. In our offensive third we had the ball for a lot of those minutes, and we need to be a little more dangerous with our decision making to get to the goal. It was a very good effort. A lot of people had chances to play. The effort was there, and we hope to improve and get better for Sunday night.”

Carolina returns to action Sunday night when they take on the Boston University Terriers Sunday night at Stone Stadium. The Labor Day Weekend match is scheduled for 7 p.m. as the Gamecocks and Terriers (0-1-0) meet for the first time. The first 250 fans in attendance will receive a free South Carolina soccer keychain.