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Oct. 24, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 10 South Carolina will look to stay on top of the SEC rankings with a nationally televised Sunday match at No. 17 LSU. The Gamecocks (15-1-1, 7-1-1) and Tigers (10-4-3, 6-2-1) will kickoff at 3 p.m. on ESPNU in a game between the SEC East and West division leaders.

South Carolina is unbeaten in the last nine games against the Tigers. The Gamecocks hold a 6-1-3 series advantage with the only loss coming in Carolina’s first season of soccer in 1995. However, the last two games between the SEC’s newest powers were both draws – a 1-1 tie at Baton Rouge in 2007 and a 0-0 tie in Columbia in 2008. The last three matches between the teams have all gone to overtime, not surprising considering South Carolina and LSU have had the league’s top rated defenses the past three seasons.

The Gamecocks will next travel to Gainesville, Fla., next Friday for the season finale against No. 12 Florida. In all likelihood, the SEC regular season champion will not be crowned until that game as South Carolina, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss all have a legitimate shot at the title.

The Gamecocks hit the road next Friday to take on No. 12 Florida in the season finale. The match could decide not only the SEC East champion but the overall champion as well, depending on the outcomes of Sunday’s SEC games.

LSU, like South Carolina, has turned into one of the SEC’s powers the past three seasons and have found their success with a mixture of offense and defense. The Tigers are not without star players and are led by senior midfielder Maloria Rutledge, the 2008 SEC Offensive Player of the Year. She leads the team in goals (8), assists (7) and points (23). Three other players (Melissa Clarke, Rachel Yepez and Carlie Banks) also have double-digit points this season. Sophomore goalkeeper Mo Isom is having another strong season with nine shutouts and a 0.74 GAA.

For the fourth consecutive week, South Carolina has earned a top 10 ranking from all three major publications as Coach Shelley Smith’s team comes in at No. 10 by the NSCAA and Soccer America in addition to a No. 9 ranking by Soccer Times. The Gamecocks also come in at No. 12 in the second NCAA RPI report released this week.

Senior defender Blakely Mattern has been named a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, presented annually in eight NCAA Division 1 Sports to a senior student-athlete who excels both on and off the field. Candidates are chosen based on their dedication and achievement in four areas: Classroom, Character, Community and Competition. Fan voting will help decide the winner. Visit “” or text “W6” to 74567 to vote for Mattern.

The 2009 senior class will leave Columbia as the winningest senior class in program history. Entering weekend play, the group of seniors hold a 51-20-13 (.684) record, the most wins and best win-percentage for a South Carolina senior class. The group of seven has led Carolina to three consecutive SEC tournament appearances and two consecutive NCAA appearances.

South Carolina is currently second in the nation with 12 shutouts on the year and have allowed only six goals through the first 17 games of the season. Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton has held the national lead in all three goalkeeping categories for the majority of the season. Going into Sunday’s match she holds the national lead with 12 solo shutouts, ranks third nationally with a 0.29 goals against average and is fifth nationally with a .915 save percentage.

Noted as one of the top defensive teams in the country under Shelley Smith, South Carolina has continued that excellence this season and added a little offensive flair as well. The Gamecocks have the NCAA’s third-ranked defense with a 0.35 goals against average and 12 shutouts. The team is also No. 26 in scoring offense (2.25 goals/game). With that type of production, South Carolina is also at the top of the SEC lists in half of the statistical categories. The team leads the conference in goals allowed, goals against average, shutouts, shots allowed, shots on goal allowed, points allowed, assists and shot on goal percentage.

South Carolina’s incredible run this season may have been foreshadowed by the preseason ending 2-0 shutout win of the Mexican National Team. Since that match, the Mexican team went 4-0 in its collegiate tour and outscored opponents 14-2 with wins at Kennesaw State (5-0), previously ranked TCU (4-1), #14 Southern California (2-0) and Cal State Fullerton (3-1).

With a 15-1-1 record and 7-1-1 SEC record, the Gamecocks have already matched program bests for overall and conference wins in a season with at least four games remaining in 2009. Currently first in the overall SEC standings, the Gamecocks are in search of the first overall and first East Division titles in program history.