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Oct. 9, 2009

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Samantha Diaz-Matosas

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The unbeaten and seventh-ranked South Carolina women’s soccer team earned its nation-leading 10th shutout of the season in a 1-0 overtime win against Auburn on Senior Night to move into first in the SEC standings. The Gamecocks (12-0-1, 4-0-1 SEC) got a goal from senior Samantha Diaz-Matosas in the 98th minute to top the Tigers (5-5-3, 2-3-0 SEC) at Stone Stadium.

With the win, South Carolina remains as one of three teams in the nation without a loss this season, improving the school-record unbeaten streak to 13 matches. Coupled with losses by No. 13 LSU and No. 18 Georgia Friday night, South Carolina now leads the SEC standings with half of conference play completed.

“It was exciting to win in a dramatic fashion and earn a goal, especially on Senior Night,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “For Sam to step up and score was a great gift for her and the team. We’re excited about the win. To put us in first (in the SEC) makes it that much sweeter, so we’re happy with the result tonight … Auburn’s a good team so it’s a great result for us. When it gets to overtime, you start to wonder if it’s going to fall, but I wasn’t worried about us trying to put ourselves in position to win the game. Players stepped up. Shannon (Bigbie) moved to the back and we moved Sam up top. That’s a change that we make at times and it paid off tonight.”

On a night when South Carolina’s seven-member senior class – the winningest senior class in program history – was honored, Diaz-Matosas stepped up for the Gamecocks in their second consecutive overtime match. Before the game, Diaz-Matosas was surprised when a message from her fiancé stationed in South Korea was played on the scoreboard at Stone Stadium wishing her luck. She responded by knocking in her third goal of the season from 20 yards out to even the all-time series with the Tigers at 5-5-3.

“I had no idea (about the video message),” Diaz-Matosas said of seeing her fiancé’s 30-second message. “It was a little emotional, but I had a big game to come out and play. I knew it was really important for our seniors to get our win here on our last Friday game. (To remain undefeated) is the best feeling in the world.”

South Carolina last won an overtime game when Kim Miller hit a penalty kick to defeat Furman on Sept. 7, 2008. The golden goal was the first in the run of play for the Gamecocks since a 2-1 win against LSU on Oct. 20, 2006. The Gamecocks are now 3-4-13 in overtime games since the 2005 season.

Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton continued her stellar play in the net with three saves, including a big one in the 88th minute to keep the game scoreless and eventually earn her 10th shutout of the season. Patton entered the match as the NCAA leader in shutouts and goals against average, and will hold onto that distinction after Friday’s game.

The Gamecocks had their chances throughout the match with a 17-7 shot advantage but couldn’t seem to capitalize on their opportunities throughout the game. Kayla Grimsley and Lindsay Small brought the crowd to its feet in the ninth minute when Grimsley stole a ball after an Auburn corner kick and ran the length of the field with Small before the lone Tiger defender was able to deflect the ball before a shot could be had.

One minute later, Kortney Rhoades put together her own run towards the net for a break and found Shannon Bigbie inside the box, but Bigbie’s shot attempt from 12 yards out was blocked by an Auburn defender to end another threat.

A free kick in the 25th minute just outside the penalty area gave the Gamecocks another promising look, but the service went over Bigbie’s head. A follow-up shot by Small went wide of the net. Then in the 37th, Kira Campbell started another run with a turnover at midfield and sent a thru ball to Diaz-Matosas behind the last defender, but her open shot sailed over the net to send the game into the break.

South Carolina peppered the attack more closely at the start of the second half, the first look in the 43rd when a Brooke Jacobs cross found Miller open at the ’18, but the shot missed the mark. In the 48th, Grimsley found Jacobs in front of the net for a point-blank shot that was stopped by Auburn goalkeeper Amy Howard. Less than a minute later, Grimsley’s strike from the left flank went just wide of the net.

Neither team had a shot attempt in the overtime period before Diaz-Matosas was able to hit the golden goal at 97:47.

South Carolina returns to action Sunday afternoon when the team takes on Alabama (5-5-1, 1-2-1 SEC) at Stone Stadium. The match is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. and is the second game of a doubleheader with the South Carolina men’s team.