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Oct. 28, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 13 South Carolina will travel to No. 10 Florida for the regular season finale in a game that will decide the SEC Eastern division champion. The match will kickoff at 6 p.m. and is scheduled to air live on FSN Florida. The Gamecocks are looking to claim the program’s first ever SEC Eastern division and overall titles.

South Carolina (15-2-1, 7-2-1 SEC) finds itself two points behind Florida (13-4-2, 7-1-2 SEC) in the SEC standings. A South Carolina victory will earn the division title and clinch at least a share of the SEC Championship. The Gamecocks would win the SEC title outright with a victory coupled with an LSU loss or draw at Arkansas. (Due to tiebreakers, LSU would claim the top seed in the SEC tournament if South Carolina and LSU both win Friday). The Gators are looking to win their fourth consecutive SEC title.

The Gamecocks are 1-16-1 all-time against Florida with the lone victory coming at home on Sept. 29, 2002. Florida took a 1-0 victory over the Gamecocks last year to earn the first 11-0-0 campaign in SEC history.

The Gamecocks travel to Orange Beach, Ala., to participate in the 2009 SEC Tournament. South Carolina will make an appearance for the fourth consecutive season, and the team can finish anywhere from first to fourth in the regular season standings.

Florida has come on strong at the end of the season and fought its way back to the top of the SEC standings with one game remaining. The team is led by sophomore midfielder Lindsay Thompson with nine points and two assists for 20 points, but the offensive output is well-rounded with five players that have five or more goals. Redshirt junior Katie Fraine sports a 0.81 goals against average with seven shutouts.

South Carolina dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in five weeks after a split weekend, but the team remains high in the polls with a No. 13 ranking by the NSCAA. In addition, Soccer Times has the team at No. 14 and Soccer America put the Gamecocks at No. 15. Carolina also comes in at No. 12 in the second NCAA RPI report released last week.

Sophomore defender Ellen Fahey will miss the season finale at Gainesville after earning a red card in the 58th minute of Sunday’s game at LSU. The game will end a streak of 40 consecutive starts for Fahey at centerback as the sophomore has started every game of her career. Senior midfielder Lindsay Small will likely fill in on the backline, opening up a starting spot at midfield. The leading candidates for that spot are sophomore Kira Campbell and freshman Christine Watts.

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 0.38 goals against average and 12 shutouts. The team is also No. 34 in scoring offense (2.11 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.

With a 15-2-1 record and 7-2-1 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.

Sophomore Kayla Grimsley became just the fifth player in South Carolina history to register a 10-goal season after scoring in the 63rd minute against Arkansas last Thursday. Grimsley joins Jennie Ondo, Angela Austin, Debbie Smith and Darcel Mollon as players to reach the plateau.

South Carolina’s 15 wins are tied for third in the country behind the top two teams in this week’s national polls: Stanford (17) and Portland (16). The Gamecocks, along with Charlotte, hold a win percentage of .861 with a 15-2-1 overall record.

The 2009 senior class will leave Columbia as the winningest senior class in program history. Entering weekend play, the group of seniors hold a 51-21-13 (.677) 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 tied for third in the nation with 12 shutouts on the year and have allowed only seven goals through 18 games this season. Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton has held the national lead in all three goalkeeping categories for the majority of the season. Going into Friday’s match she is third in the nation with 12 solo shutouts, ranks fourth nationally with a 0.33 goals against average and is seventh nationally with a .903 save percentage.

LSU’s goal 57 seconds into last Sunday’s game marked the first time this season that South Carolina has allowed a goal in the first half. Opponents have only scored seven goals against the Gamecocks this season, and the first minute goal by the Tigers was the fastest scored by an opponent in over three seasons.

South Carolina will have at least three televised games in the 2009 season. The team defeated Vanderbilt, 2-1, in the SEC opener on Sept. 25 before falling 1-0 to LSU last Sunday on ESPNU. The final game against Florida will be broadcast on Fox Sports Florida. The LSU broadcast marked the third consecutive season that the Gamecocks played a game on national television.