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Aug. 30, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C.Kim Miller and Kayla Grimsley both scored first half goals for the second consecutive game as the South Carolina women’s soccer team shutout Western Carolina 2-0 Sunday at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks (2-0) held the Catamounts (2-1) without a shot for the entire 90 minutes of play and held an 11-0 advantage in shots.

The Gamecock defense has only allowed two shots in 180 minutes of soccer played to open the season. Opponents have been held without a shot in three of the four stanzas this year after College of Charleston was held without a shot in the first half Thursday and Western Carolina was held without a shot in both halves. In the 2008 season, South Carolina led the SEC and ranked 16th in the nation in shots allowed at 8.29 per game.

“We did very well to possess the ball,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “We won the 50-50’s, and once we won the ball we did a good job to get the all in areas away from their pressure. We would have liked to finish more chances, but the fact that we didn’t give up a goal or a shot is very commendable.”

Grimsley opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when the sophomore and Preseason All-SEC member stole the ball from the last line of defense at midfield following a clearance by Ellen Fahey for a clean breakaway. She slotted the ball past keeper Caitlin Williams at 22:38 to score her second goal in as many games and give the Gamecocks the 1-0 lead. Four minutes later, Miller tallied the second goal off a deflection from a shot by senior defender Samantha Diaz-Matosas. The goal came at 26:49 to secure the victory and even the all-time series with the Catamounts 1-1.

The game started off familiarly for the Gamecocks when Miller was awarded a second minute free kick 25 yards in front of the Catamount goal and almost in the same spot as her game-winning free kick against College of Charleston Thursday night. Miller’s attempt went high, but South Carolina remained on the offensive throughout the half with the ball staying in the attacking third.

In the 10th minute, Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award candidate Blakely Mattern cleared a ball to the front that found a streaking Grimsley up top. With a chance to add an assist to her sheet, Grimsley sent a ball to Brooke Jacobs in front of the goal, but the Western Carolina defense blocked the cross before Jacobs could get a foot on it.

With a 2-0 lead and 6-0 shot advantage heading into the second half, Jacobs attempted to return the favor in the 59th minute on a strong cross that just missed the feet of a sliding Grimsley yards in front of the net. Shortly after in the 65th minute, Grimsley put her ball control skills on display by splitting four Western Carolina defenders inside the box, but the keeper was able to get a hand on her pass to Dani Henry to prevent another score.

As time began to run out, Western Carolina continued to press but could not penetrate the Gamecock backline and finished the match without a shot and with one corner kick.

“I thought we dealt with a team that plays physical, and we moved the ball well,” Smith said. “Last year we didn’t do that at their place. I thought the ref did a good job to keep the game as clean as possible. We dealt with some fouls and hard play and came out and really competed.”

Smith earned her 51st career victory at Stone Stadium, nicknamed “The Graveyard” where the Gamecocks have gone 25-2-5 since the start of the 2006 season.

Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton moves into a tie for third on the South Carolina all-time shutout list with the ninth shutout of her career. In her second year on the pitch, Grimsley jumps to 15th on the Gamecock scoring list with 26 career points in 24 games played.

South Carolina returns to action next weekend when the team travels to Louisville, Ky., to compete in the Cardinal Classic. The Gamecocks will take on the host Louisville Cardinals Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Cincinnati Sunday at 11:30 a.m.