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Oct. 22, 2008

South Carolina vs. #13 LSU | Thursday, 7 p.m.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina returns home for a midweek Thursday night showdown against conference rival #13 LSU. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Stone Stadium as the Gamecocks look to end their first losing streak since early in the 2007 season after dropping games to Alabama and Auburn last week. Thursday’s game is the “Think Pink” game where the first 200 fans will receive a “Think Pink” t-shirt to support the “Kick for the Cure” cause.

Thursday’s game will feature the SEC’s top ranked defenses in No. 1 LSU and No. 2 South Carolina. The Tigers and Gamecocks lead the conference in every major defensive category, and the teams also boast the two goalkeepers that rank first and second in the conference in goals against average.

South Carolina travels to Fayetteville, Ark., for the final regular season road trip with a 1:30 p.m. game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas (11-5-0; 4-4-0) has won two straight after dropping four consecutive conference matches. The game has been changed from its original 2 p.m. start time to accommodate Carolina’s travel plans.

LSU is one of the hottest teams in the conference, winning five straight games after starting 1-2 in SEC play. Both of LSU’s losses this season have been on the road. For the second straight year the Tigers are the SEC’s best attacking team with a conference-leading 40 goals and 117 points. They are led by a bevy of juniors – Malorie Rutledge leads the nation with 14 assists (1.0 per game), and she, Rachel Yepez and Michelle Makasini are all in the SEC’s top 10 and the nation’s top 100 for goals and points. Freshman Mo Isom has been strong in goal with a 0.64 GAA and six shutouts. Carolina – 21-3-4 at home since 2006 – has not lost to LSU since the first meeting between the teams in 1995.

After finishing last in the SEC in 2007, fourth year coach Gordon Henderson has his team in the thick of the SEC Tournament race with a 4-4 record. Britni Williams leads the SEC with seven shutouts and is third behind LSU’s Mo Isom and Carolina’s Mollie Patton with a 0.95 goals against average. The Lady’Backs are an even team offensively with 11 players having scored a goal. Lindsay Patterson leads the team with six goals and 15 points on a strong .400 shot percentage.

No. 13 LSU is the second ranked team the Gamecocks will play this season after tying then-No. 7 Florida State 3-3 at the Auburn Soccer Classic. LSU is the highest ranked team to enter Stone Stadium since the Gamecocks recorded a 2-0 victory over No. 7 Clemson on Sept. 15, 2004. The Gamecocks are 1-3-2 all-time against teams ranked No. 13 in the national polls.

South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past two seasons, posting a 23-1-4 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 16 matches.

South Carolina is ranked in the top two in the SEC in every major defensive category. Led by starting defenders Brittiny Rhoades, Ellen Fahey, Blakely Mattern and Samantha Diaz-Matosas, Carolina has registered seven shutouts, holds a 0.85 goals against average and has limited opponents to 3.82 shots on goal, all ranking second in the SEC. The defense has only allowed only 31 points and 9.06 shots per game, numbers that rank third in the SEC. Carolina limited Alabama to only six shots last Friday – including none in the entire second half.

Freshman Kayla Grimsley has carried her strong play from the non-conference portion of the season to SEC play. Grimsley currently leads Carolina with eight goals and four assists for 20 points, numbers that rank second all-time for Carolina freshmen with three regular season games remaining. Even more impressive is that 11 of her 20 points have come in six SEC games (4 goals and 3 assists). Grimsley has earned weekly honors from Top Drawer Soccer, Soccer Buzz, Soccer America and the SEC. Her weekend against Kentucky and Vanderbilt made her just the second Gamecock to score three goals in one SEC weekend – the last being Jennie Ondo in 1999.

Senior Danila Monteiro saw the field for the first time in nearly a month when she played eight minutes against Ole Miss. The lone senior on the team, Monteiro missed five games after a hard foul to the back in the second minute at Western Carolina knocked her to 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, has progressed and started for the Gamecocks against Auburn last Sunday.

Sophomore Brooke Jacobs scored in the 8th minute against Mississippi State for her second career goal – both having gone as game-winners. Jacobs’s goal marked the first goal this season by a player that strictly plays forward; a combination of defenders and midfield/forwards scored Carolina’s first 20 goals this season. Shannon Bigbie followed Jacobs’s lead with a goal Sunday against Ole Miss.