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Sept. 14, 2008

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AUBURN, ALA. – Three Gamecocks scored in a thrilling double-overtime tie between the South Carolina women’s soccer team and No. 7 Florida State Sunday afternoon at the Auburn Soccer Classic. Playing in their first game against a ranked team this season, the Gamecocks came back from a 3-2 deficit late in the second half off a goal from Idana DeCecco after initially leading 2-0 early in the first half.

South Carolina improves to 5-0-2 on the year with the seven game unbeaten streak to start the season matching last year’s team for best in program history. The 2007 squad raced out to a 7-0-0 record en route to a school-record 14 victories. Florida State’s record moves to 5-1-1 on the year following the first meeting between the two Southeast region teams.

Kayla Grimsley, Kim Miller and DeCecco each scored once for Carolina with Maria Petroni picking up one assist and Danila Monteiro recording the other two. Grimsley, a freshman from Lakeland, Fla., scored the game-winning goal in Friday’s victory against Marquette and notched her team-leading third goal in as many games for the Gamecocks.

“Our goal is to get better every game and improve our play,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “I thought we did that and played the way we are able to play against a very good Florida State team. To go down a goal in the second half, we were tired at halftime and came together to compete in the second half. It was a team effort across the board. Players came off the bench and gave us a lift, and players that were on the field playing their roles. This is a very unselfish group and they understand how to play together to put us in position to win the game.”

Miller’s goal in the 16th minute was an early reminder for the Gamecocks of their last victory against a top 10 opponent, a 1-0 victory at top-ranked North Carolina in the 2007 season opener. In that game, the Gamecocks scored the game-winner on their second shot of the game as Samantha Diaz-Matosas connected with Erin Sullivan at 15:20 to give Carolina the victory against the ACC front runner. Sunday, Miller’s shot off a kick back from Maria Petroni sailed into the upper left corner of the net at 15:36, Carolina’s first shot of the game against the 2007 national runner-up.

Ten minutes after that strike, the Gamecocks were on the attack again, this time initially set up by Diaz-Matosas from the backline as she passed up to Monteiro in the midfield. Monteiro flicked a beautiful ball to Miller who hit another strong strike that was blocked by the FSU defense. A few second later, Monteiro would get the ball right back and flick another ball to Grimsley who hit a grounder past the Seminole goalkeeper and into the bottom right corner of the net to give South Carolina a two-goal cushion. The shot was just South Carolina’s fourth of the game, and the goal marks the first time this season that the Gamecocks scored two first half goals. It is also the first time this season that the Seminoles have allowed two goals in a game.

Starting five freshmen in the field for the first time this season, the strategy seemed to pay off for the Gamecocks against a Florida State team that entered Sunday’s match following a 3-0 win against host Auburn Friday night. After Carolina’s second goal, the Seminoles pressed further on their attack as Amanda DaCosta took a shot inside the 18′ that was blocked by Ellen Fahey and Miller. The rebound attempt went high.

“They started great,” Smith said. “Obviously we were up two goals as they came in and did what we asked. They gave us chances to go up on a very good Florida State team. Florida State is a dangerous team and that’s obviously why they are a top 10 team. We haven’t had many multi-goal games and today we needed one. We did well offensively and our defense did well too. We shut them down and did what we needed to stay in the game and put us in a good position.”

The Seminoles were able to push into their attacking third again in the 35th minute but were stifled by Brittiny Rhoades on the left side who twice stripped the Florida State attackers before they could get a look on goal. Florida State continued to press in the final five minutes of the first half, getting two looks in the 41st minute with one saved by Patton and the other blocked by Fahey. However, they were finally able to get one in the goal in the 42nd minute after a cross from Kazbour on the left side split the defense and found an open Rachel Lim for the goal to move the game to a 2-1 Carolina lead heading into the half.

Florida State ran out in the second half with a strong attack that began with a shot by Tiffany McCarty in the 48th minute that hit the crossbar before rebounding to Marissa Kazbour whose shot hit the post and led to a corner kick. On the first corner kick, Kazbour took a shot from point blank that was saved by Mollie Patton. The Seminoles would get another attempt one minute later that they were able to convert to tie the game as McCarty’s header went past Patton in the 52nd minute.

Taking advantage of the momentum, the Seminoles continued the attack and found themselves again in Carolina territory in the 62nd when Sarah Wagenfuhr played a clearance by South Carolina back into the box that was headed in by McCarty to give the Seminoles a 3-2 lead. The last time the Gamecocks gave up three goals in a game was in a 3-2 overtime loss to Tennessee in last season’s SEC opener at Tennessee.

The Gamecocks were then able to get a handle on the match, controlling the ball in the attacking third but not getting strong looks on the goal despite seven minutes of running the game at their tempo. It wasn’t until Idana DeCecco hit a rebound of Monteiro’s shot into the goal that the Gamecocks were able to tie that game 3-3. On her first shot of the season, DeCecco hit a blast at 74:22 that kept the Gamecocks in the game.

“That was huge,” Smith said. “Teams that don’t believe and don’t have it in them might fold at that point. I thought that was the impressive part of our performance. They fought and it wasn’t over. Kayla, Kim and Idana did a good job for us and obviously the whole team did a great job. It could have been anyone’s game in overtime but we stepped up and played well.”

Miller gave Carolina a strong look in the 85th minute on a running shot that was saved by Seminole keeper Milstead, and the Seminoles used the save to press down field that led to a shot by McCarty from 10 yards out that was saved by Patton. The save led to successive corner kicks for Florida State, but Patton was able to grab a cross out of the air on the second corner kick to end the threat. Diaz-Matosas was able to fire off one more shot for South Carolina with 20 seconds remaining as the teams went into overtime tied 3-3.

The Seminoles took the first shot in the first overtime period as Erika Sutton attempted a header in the 91st minute that missed the mark. Neither team then had a strong look until the Gamecocks collected a fury of hustle plays in the 97th minute. The best look came after Grimsley and Monteiro did a give-and-go at midfield that was eventually crossed to Maria Petroni outside the 18′ whose shot went high under pressure from the Seminole defense. The shot was the final for the Gamecocks of the first overtime period.

Both teams had one solid chance in the final overtime beginning with South Carolina in the 105th as Grimsley danced all the way down the right sideline, but the offense could not muster a shot. The Seminoles then came close to hitting the golden goal with one minute to play when Lauren Switzer had an open shot in front of the goal but sent it high as the teams ended the game in a 3-3 tie.

Florida State held a 20-14 advantage in shots but the number of shots on goal was fairly even with FSU holding an 11-9 advantage. Patton registered a career-high eight saves in the effort against the Southeast region’s top-ranked team.

South Carolina returns home next Friday when they host East Tennessee State University (2-1-0) for a 7 p.m. match at Stone Stadium. Carolina then closes out the non-conference portion of the schedule with a road trip to Western Carolina for a 2 p.m. match on Sunday.