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Sept. 7, 2008

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – With the Carolina’s Cup championship on the line, midfielder Kim Miller hit a penalty kick in the 94th minute to lead South Carolina to a 2-1 overtime victory over Furman Sunday afternoon at Stone Stadium. With the win, the Gamecocks improve to 4-0-1 and win the Carolina’s Cup for the second consecutive year.

Furman, who defeated Francis Marion in Friday’s match, drops to 2-1-1 on the year and claims third place in the tournament due to a tiebreaker with Clemson. The Tigers and Paladins both went 1-1 on the weekend, but Clemson’s goal differential moves them to second place.

“We survived a tough Sunday match coming off a high beating Clemson,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “To come into Sunday, you try to never be flat, and that’s something we worked hard on to start preparing for those SEC Sunday matches. We did well to find a way to win the game. That is important for this group to do that. It’s a sign of successful teams because every player that came into the game played an important role for us. Everyone on this team deserves credit for the two wins this weekend. We didn’t put our best game out there today, but we did find a way to win so I’m proud of that final result.

Miller’s penalty kick came after a foul inside the 18′ just three minutes after the start of overtime. Her last PK attempt came in the 2007 NCAA Tournament game against Duke where she was the only Gamecock to knock in a kick in the first round match. After watching teammate Samantha Diaz-Matosas score the game-winner against East Carolina last Thursday on a PK, Miller again stepped up to the pressure and knocked it into the left corner past preseason All-SoCon selection Briana da Mota. The goal was the second career score for Miller, who was one of four Gamecocks named to the All-Tournament Team in addition to Lindsay Small who was named Tournament MVP.

“Miller played crucial minutes for us,” Smith said. “She rarely comes out of the match because she’s a leader out there. She is extremely consistent, and that’s what she brings to the table when she takes a PK. She is consistent and knows it, so that allows her to step up with confidence. I’m excited for her to be able to put the team on her shoulders like that and finish. It showed experience on her part as a junior captain. That’s the leadership you need in a young team.”

The Gamecocks ran on the attack immediately as Brooke Jacobs fired a shot on goal 15 seconds into the match that was saved by Furman keeper Brianna da Mota. Jacobs then snuck a pass behind the defense to Shannon Bigbie in the third minute but the keeper was able to run out for the ball before Bigbie was able to get off a shot. From then, the Paladins began to take control, keeping possession for a long stretch that included a shot by Lucy Martin in the eighth minute that clanged off the crossbar following a corner kick. The Gamecocks didn’t get another good look on goal until freshman Kayla Grimsley’s header for a goal in the 26th to take the 1-0 lead. The goal was the first for Grimsley, a three-time Florida state player of the year in high school, and came courtesy of a cross from freshman Natalie Aaron.

Furman’s Martin scored the equalizer in the 55th minute from a shot 20 yards out the bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. The goal against was the first allowed by South Carolina on the year, a span of 434:23 for keeper Mollie Patton.

South Carolina came close to coming back on top in the 63rd as Jacobs flicked a pass to to Grimsley who then kicked it ahead to an open Natalie Aaron, but the player was called offside to end the threat. Aaron would get another chance in the 69th on a pass from Jacobs, but the shot missed the frame. Following a Furman foul, Aaron again saw the ball at her feet and got off two shots in a 10 second span, both good strikes that were blocked by the last line of the Furman defense.

Grimsley had another look in the 82nd minute that hit the crossbar. Jacobs then beat the keeper in the 85th minute but was too far up to get a good placement on goal as the teams went to overtime tied 1-1. At the end of regulation, South Carolina held a 13-8 advantage in shots and a 7-4 advantage in corner kicks.

The Gamecock were able to use their depth to their advantage on a hot and humid afternoon at Stone Stadium following about 15 minutes of rain at the conclusion of the first game between Clemson and Francis Marion. Every healthy position player contributed to the win while Patton, who leads the SEC with a 0.19 goals against average, recorded two saves for her fourth win in goal.

“That’s what we need throughout the season,” Smith said. “We have to go to our depth, especially on Sunday’s. That’s when everyone on the roster needs to be ready to go. Some played a couple of minutes here and there, but that was crucial for us to get through a 93-minute overtime match. Sometimes they feel like if you don’t play a lot of minutes that you don’t help much, but anytime we can get rotation in and our play doesn’t drop, that is going to carry us through the season.”

South Carolina returns to action next weekend when they travel to Auburn, Ala., for the Auburn Soccer Classic. The Gamecocks will take on No. 25 Marquette (4-1-0) on Friday at 5:30 pm EST to open the tournament. They will then take on 2007 national runner-up No. 5 Florida State (4-1-0) Sunday at noon. The Seminoles suffered their first loss of the season Sunday in a 1-0 decision against Florida.

South Carolina (2-0)
Clemson (1-1; 3 GF, 1 GA)
Furman (1-1, 3 GF, 2 GA)
Francis Marion (0-2)

Lindsay Small – M – South Carolina

Kim Miller – M – South Carolina
Kayla Grimsley – M – South Carolina
Brooke Jacobs – F – South Carolina
Mollie Patton – GK – South Carolina
Molly Johnson – D – Clemson
Katie Vogel – M – Clemson
Jennifer Ficklen – D/M – Clemson
Rachel Fry – M – Furman
Lucy Martin – F – Furman
Amanda Hall – F – Francis Marion
Angela Salem – M – Francis Marion