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Sept. 16, 2009

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 UCF | Friday, 7 p.m.
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#12 South Carolina vs. South Alabama | Sunday, 2 p.m.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 12 South Carolina (6-0-0) closes out its non-conference schedule with perhaps the biggest non-conference game the team has hosted at Stone Stadium with a Friday night match against No. 17 UCF (5-1-1) . The Gamecocks and Knights kickoff at 7 p.m. in a game that marks the first time in program history that a nationally ranked women’s soccer team hosted a nationally ranked opponent at Stone Stadium.

The Gamecocks will then return to the pitch Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the non-conference finale against South Alabama (2-4-0), a team that has already played two SEC opponents. South Carolina will attempt to take an unbeaten and untied record into conference play for the first time since the conference adopted the current scheduling format in the 2000 season – a feat the team can accomplish with victories against the Knights and Jaguars.

CUFC Day & SEC Together We CAN Drive – Anyone that brings in a can for donation receives $1 admission to Friday’s match. All donations will be sent to Harvest Hope Food Bank. Also, all Columbia United soccer teams (CUFC) admitted for $1 when wearing their jersey in groups of 15 or more.

The Gamecocks open the SEC schedule next weekend beginning with a Friday night regionally televised match against Vanderbilt at Stone Stadium. The match will air on FSN South at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25. South Carolina will face Kentucky Sunday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.

UCF carries a No. 17 ranking into the first matchup with the Gamecocks and are on a roll after posting a 1-0 overtime win against then-No. 4 Florida State and South Florida last week. The Knights (5-1-1) have played one of the strongest schedules in the nation with wins against the Seminoles and Duke, a draw against LSU and a loss to top-ranked North Carolina. The team is led by all-star goalkeeper Aline Reis, a sophomore Brazilian that earned NSCAA All-America honors last year as a freshman. After missing two games to injury, Reis returned in the shutouts last week and was named the NSCAA National Player of the Week in addition to earning Conference USA player of the week honors. Senior Courtney Whidden leads the Knights from the field with four goals and an assist for nine points. The match is just the second away game this year for the team that advanced to the NCAA Second Round last year.

South Alabama (2-4-0) enters Sunday’s match after defeating Jacksonville last Friday 1-0. Sunday’s match against Stetson was called before halftime – and deemed a cancelled match – due to weather with Stetson leading 1-0. The Jaguars have played two SEC opponents so far this season in an 8-0 loss at Auburn and 5-1 loss at Alabama. The team is led by sophomore Brandi Smith with two goals and an assist for five points. Senior Katie Berry has earned the majority of minutes in goal and sports a 2-3 record with a 2.12 goals against average.

South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past three seasons, posting a 25-2-5 record at home since 2006. The streak included a 15-game unbeaten streak from Aug. 31, 2006-Oct. 5, 2007 and a 13-game unbeaten streak at “The Graveyard” from Oct. 19, 2007-Oct. 23, 2008. The lone blemishes on the record are a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt (Oct. 7, 2007) and a loss to #7 Florida (Oct. 30, 2008). Last Thursday’s win against College of Charleston was Coach Shelley Smith’s 50th win at Stone Stadium.

South Carolina is currently only one of three teams in the nation to start the season with six consecutive shutouts. The Gamecocks have used a combination of strong play in goal by Mollie Patton and a highly skilled defense that ranks third in the SEC with 42 shots allowed.

Senior Blakely Mattern had a career weekend at the Carolina’s Cup when she scored three goals in two games for six points to earn the Carolina’s Cup MVP honor. The senior defender also led the Gamecocks to their sixth shutout – tied for the NCAA lead – in the 5-0 win at Clemson and 2-0 win against UNC Wilmington. For her efforts, she was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks and also earned a spot on the Soccer America and Top Drawer Soccer National Teams of the Week.

Sophomore Kayla Grimsley has continued the stellar play that she exhibited in her freshman season last year. The flashy player leads the team with five goals and 11 points and has scored a point (goal and/or assist) in every match this season. The six-match scoring streak ties her program record that she set last season, and a point against UCF will set a new record. Grimsley has also been extremely accurate through six games and is on record pace with a .625 shot percentage and .875 shot on goal percentage – numbers that would blow away the previous records (.429/.769) if they hold throughout the season.

Senior Kim Miller has been one of the most consistent performers for South Carolina the past four years, and the New York native has stretched that consistency to another part of her game in her final season. Miller is currently tied for 10th in the NCAA with five assists so far this season. In a two-game stretch, Miller recorded assists on four consecutive goals for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina will face four opponents for the first time in 2009, starting with earlier wins against Louisville and Cincinnati in the Cardinal Classic. Carolina’s matches against UCF and South Alabama are also the first meetings between the teams. Last season, Carolina went 0-1-2 against first time opponents.

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton earned Soccer America National Team of the Week honors after her stellar play at the Cardinal Classic. She earned her first national award after shutting out Louisville and Cincinnati to extend her season-opening shutout streak to 360 minutes. Patton is currently tied for first in the nation with six shutouts on the year.