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Nov. 5, 2008

Final Stats

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – Fifth-seeded South Carolina dropped a 2-1 decision to fourth-seeded Georgia in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday night despite another strong effort from the Gamecock defense that limited the Bulldogs to only three shots in 90 minutes of action.

Again proving themselves to be a team strong on defense, the Gamecocks (11-6-4) outshot Georgia 18-3 in the game, including holding the Bulldogs (10-9-1) without a shot the entire second half. However, Georgia was able to convert on two of their three opportunities courtesy of a goal by Alex Hooker in the 10th minute and a header by Megan Tomlinson in the 26th that hit the right post and ricocheted into the net for the game-winner.

First Team All-SEC selection Blakely Mattern scored the lone goal for the Gamecocks in the 81st minute courtesy of assists from All-SEC selection Kayla Grimsley and Brittiny Rhoades. The goal was the fourth of the year for Mattern while Grimsley and Rhoades both notched their fifth assists of the season.

“Obviously it’s a very disappointing loss,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “To go down two goals early is tough. I thought we responded well in the second half with what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to score. I’m proud of the effort this team has given all year to come back and never give up. That’s the true character of this team. Now we’re just putting our hopes on an NCAA bid to prove that we are one of the best teams in the country. The way we finished tonight, we would be very difficult to beat. We were given the opportunity, but I’m proud of the effort. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

Georgia went ahead in the 10th following a play in the box where keeper Mollie Patton pushed the ball out but collided with a defender to keep her out of the play. The rebound found its way to the center of the box as Hooker connected for her second goal of the season. Fifteen minutes later on Georgia’s second shot of the game, Tomlinson took a header off a cross from Kelli Corless that hit the near post and redirected into the goal for the quick 2-0 Bulldog lead. The two first half goals marks the first time Carolina has given up two goals in a half since falling to Georgia in the 2007 SEC Tournament semifinals.

South Carolina held a 14-0 shot advantage in the final 45 minutes of action. The Gamecocks recorded the lone corner kick of the match in the 72nd minute before Mattern put the Gamecocks on the board eight minutes later to push the total to 2-1. All four games of the SEC first round Wednesday ended in 2-1 finals as LSU, Tennessee and Florida also advanced.

The Gamecocks now wait to learn their postseason fate as the NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10. The show will be broadcast on ESPN News as the Gamecocks look to earn their second consecutive bid. South Carolina holds an RPI of 32, second only to Florida in the SEC. In the brutal South region that includes teams from the ACC, SEC and Conference USA – among others – Carolina’s RPI ranks eighth. The Gamecocks hold a strong resume with wins over Marquette and Boston University in addition to a draw against RPI No. 4 Florida State at a neutral site.