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Nov. 4, 2009

Final Stats

Coach Smith

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – South Carolina never gave up as the fourth-seed scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to knock off fifth-seed Georgia, 3-2, in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at the Orange Beach Soccer Complex.

Georgia handed Carolina its first loss of the season three weeks ago by coming back on an early South Carolina goal in that match. Wednesday’s game played the exact opposite as South Carolina rebounded from a 1-0 deficit in the fourth minute and a 2-1 deficit in the 30th minute to come back and take the victory. The Gamecocks (16-3-1) advance to Friday’s semifinal against Florida, one of the other three teams to defeat Carolina in the regular season.

“The win is huge,” senior captain Blakely Mattern said. “We’ve been a team all year that has had so much heart. You can’t look at that game and not say that we didn’t want to be here more than anything. Sometimes it’s not about who plays soccer the best, it’s about who wants it more and has more heart. Everyone on our team, the extra effort and whatever it took is what we did. Never in that game was there a point that we said we wouldn’t win. We refused to lose and that’s the attitude you have to have. Georgia gave us our first loss, and to get that redemption win is just amazing. It’s only one step. We said we want to win an SEC Championship and we’re here to win one.”

Kortney Rhoades hit the game-winning goal at 88:19 courtesy of an assist from Kayla Grimsley to put the game away. Grimsley, a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection, initially tied the match just eight minutes earlier to erase a one-goal deficit the Gamecocks faced for over 50 minutes.

Brooke Jacobs scored Carolina’s first goal of the match at 11:44 with a shot to the top of the net to tie it in the first half after Georgia struck early at 4:11. After a missed South Carolina penalty kick in the seventh minute, Georgia added another goal at 28:39 off a corner kick.

“Our team has so much heart its ridiculous,” Rhoades said. “Coming off two straight losses to LSU and Florida, we were shutout twice against those two teams but came out tonight and fought literally to the last minute. That’s not something that many teams say they can do. We went down early and missed a PK early, but it didn’t matter. We didn’t let it get to us and kept playing. Kayla said to us at the end of the game that it’s not about talent but about heart. We showed that every single one of us has heart.”

The win was South Carolina’s first over Georgia since Oct. 1, 2006 when the Gamecocks took a 2-1 win at home. It is Carolina’s second SEC Tournament victory in program history – the other a 2-0 win against Tennessee in 2007.

“We are so excited to get through to the next round,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “That was an incredible game. The team rebounded really well from being down. They deserve it. They played tremendous tonight. The way they came out from being down a goal just shows the heart and drive they have to win games. They learned from disappointments this season and showed they could come back and beat Georgia tonight.”

South Carolina will take on top-seed Florida Friday at 7:30 p.m. (CT) in the semifinal round. The Gators defeated Tennessee 1-0 in an overtime match Wednesday night.