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Sept. 25, 2008

South Carolina vs. Tennessee | Friday, 7 p.m.
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South Carolina vs. Georgia | Sunday, 2 p.m.
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General Information
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team opens SEC play this weekend when they host Tennessee and Georgia at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks (6-1-2), ranked No. 29 by Soccer Buzz this week, will look for a chance to defeat the Lady Vols (3-5-0) and Bulldogs (2-6-0) in the same season for the first time this weekend after a successful non-conference season.

The Gamecocks take on Tennessee Friday at 7 p.m. as they look to make it two wins in a row against the Lady Vols. South Carolina earned its first win against the Lady Vols after knocking them out of the SEC Tournament quarterfinals last season by a 2-0 score. Carolina then hosts Georgia Sunday at 2 p.m. looking for their first win against the Bulldogs since defeating them 2-1 at Stone Stadium in 2006.

“For us, we need to make sure we go and play like we should at home and take care of business,” South Carolina coach Shelley Smith said. “We have always played both teams very well and competitively, and that’s what we’re going to do again when they come here.”

During Friday’s match, fans can participate in the 2008 SEC Together We CAN Drive. Bins will be setup at Stone Stadium where fans can donate canned goods to support the Harvest Hope Food Bank. Financial donations will also be accepted.

South Carolina suffered its first loss of the season last Sunday when they dropped a 1-0 game at Western Carolina. Senior midfielder Danila Monteiro was injured in the second minute of the game and will miss this weekend’s SEC opener, but the Gamecocks have a combination of youth and experience that it will look towards to fill in for the senior. The midfield trio of juniors Kim Miller and Lindsay Small and freshman Kayla Grimsley have been the driving force for the Gamecocks in the early portion of the season. The three have combined for seven of Carolina’s last 10 goals, and their contributions have not gone unnoticed.

Miller, a 2007 SEC All-Tournament selection, is the team’s leader in the midfield and enters the weekend with two goals and an assist despite her role as “the team’s engine,” a player whose responsibility is to coordinate the entire 11 rather than solely press up and attack. Small is second on the team with three goals and an assist for seven points and was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week in the third week of the season. Grimsley leads the team with four goals and an assist for nine points and has already set a freshman record at Carolina by scoring a goal in four consecutive games, a feat only accomplished by one other player.

South Carolina hits the road next weekend when they travel to take on Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks and Wildcats meet Friday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. before Carolina travels to Nashville for a 3 p.m. match at Vanderbilt. The Carolina-Kentucky match will feature a pair of sisters on the field in the Gamecocks’ Ellen Fahey – a freshman defender – and the Wildcats’ Katie Fahey – a junior forward.

The Lady Vols, historically a premier team in the Southeastern Conference, has seen a bit of misfortune in the difficult non-conference portion of their schedule. Tennessee enters Friday’s match with a 3-5-0 record, and this game marks the first time since Oct. 12, 2003 that the Lady Vols enter the Carolina match unranked. Tennessee is led by two-time defending SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kylee Rossi with four goals. All-American Jaimel Johnson returns in goal and carries a 1.03 GAA with two shutouts.

Much like Tennessee, Georgia’s 2-6-0 record and current five-game losing streak could come as a surprise to many before taking a closer look at the Bulldogs’s schedule. Georgia’s six losses have all come to teams that have been ranked this season, including their last five matches which have been against teams all currently in the Top 15. Add in Friday’s match at Gainesville and Carolina’s No. 29 ranking (SoccerBuzz) and the Bulldogs will play a stretch of seven consecutive ranked teams, including 2007 NCAA Champion Southern California. Carrie Patterson leads the Bulldogs with two goals and three assists for seven points while Michelle Betos has played every minute in goal with a 2.21 GAA.

For the second consecutive week the Gamecocks are ranked as they come in the Soccer Buzz poll at No. 29. Carolina is also receiving votes in the NSCAA poll as the fifth team out.

South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past two seasons, posting a 20-1-3 record at home since 2006. The streak included a 15-game unbeaten streak from Aug. 31, 2006-Oct. 5, 2007. The lone blemish on the record was a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt (Oct. 7, 2007) when the Gamecocks surrendered a goal with nine seconds remaining in the game. Carolina has 16 shutouts during the 24 game stretch, including 10 of the last 12 matches.

Senior Danila Monteiro looked forward to enjoying a full season with the Gamecocks in her final year but saw that idea end in just the second minute of Sunday’s match against Western Carolina. A hard foul to the back knocked Monteiro on the ground and she missed the remainder of the game with a leg injury. Monteiro, who missed the 2007 regular season finale and postseason after tearing her ACL, will be evaluated and will not dress until further notice.