Oct. 29, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s soccer team battled Conference USA foe Alabama-Birmingham to a 1-1 double overtime draw on Wednesday in league action at Stone Stadium. Carolina holds a 7-5-3 overall mark with a 2-2-2 record in league games, while UAB is 5-8-3 with a 1-4-1 C-USA mark following the match. Both goals were scored in the opening half of play, as UAB marked the scoreboard in the 19th minute, followed by the Gamecock equalizer in the 31st minute off the foot of sophomore striker Blake Brettschneider, his fifth goal of the season.
“I’m proud of our team tonight, ” South Carolina head coach Mark Berson said. “I thought we played very well in the beginning, and they struck and had a goal. I’m really proud that our guys didn’t hang their heads, that they came roaring back and found a way to tie the game. I’m very proud of that effort and I think that is important for us as we head into the final stages of the conference season. When you come from behind and come back in a conference game, that is a huge plus. Coming off the win at Marshall and coming back was a real positive. Sometimes we obviously would like to score more goals but we just didn’t have an opportunity tonight. I thought their goalkeeper made some good saves. I’m very proud of this effort. If we can continue to get this effort, eliminate a few more mistakes and capitalize on a few more chances we’re going to be just fine. Now we’re riding a little bit of a surge after the Marshall win and coming back tonight to gain a point (in the conference race).”
The attack was nearly even on the night, as the Blazers held a slight 15-13 edge in shots, while the Gamecocks controlled corner kick opportunities 7-4. Brettschneider tallied a game-best with a season-high six shots, while defender Mark Wiltse and midfielder David MacVane each contributed two. Sophomore defender Evan O’Dell collected the first assist of his career in the match on Brettschneider’s goal.
Sophomore netminder Jimmy Maurer played an impressive match in net, collecting six saves, including two crucial saves from point-blank range in the final minutes of the second sudden-death overtime period. UAB’s Wes Johnson also collected six saves for the Blazers. Kevin Sawchak recorded the UAB goal in the match on an unassisted tally, while he also led the squad with three shots.
Both teams struggled to find offensive momentum in the opening minutes of the first half. Sawchak marked the scoreboard in the 19th minute, and South Carolina capitalized 13 minutes later on a well-placed pass through the middle third of the field. O’Dell’s pass found Brettschneider who turned on his defender and struck the ball into the back of the net for the deciding 1-1 score.
South Carolina dominated the early portion of the second half, as junior midfielder Jeff Scannella fielded a Carolina corner kick and Brettschneider and defender Will Traynor each registered a shot in the opening minutes of play. UAB responded, pulling momentum its way in the later minutes of regulation. Sawchak registered a shot in the 88th minute, which Maurer saved, and teammate Shane Elsner punched a ball just wide of net in the final minute of play to force the first of two sudden-death overtime sessions.
UAB recorded the lone shot of the first overtime session, as neither team found its pace of play. The second overtime brought on more physical play, as the teams committed a combined seven fouls in the 10-minute session. South Carolina’s best chance came in the 106th minute as Brettschneider forced Johnson to make a strong save. Maurer answered, collecting back-to-back saves in the 107th minute on point-blank UAB shots to preserve the 1-1 tie.
South Carolina continues Conference USA play when it travels to face No. 9 Tulsa on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.