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Nov. 12, 2009


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Eighth-ranked South Carolina opens the NCAA Tournament at home Friday as the No. 2 seed Gamecocks (17-3-2) host Davidson (12-9-1) Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium. The game follows an earlier subregional match between Rutgers and Duke that is scheduled to start at 430 p.m. The winners of the two matches will advance to play each other Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tickets for each day are $8 for adults and $5 for youth (17 and under), students, faculty and staff. A ticket is good for both matches on Friday. The first 300 students will be admitted free courtesy of the Lexington County Gamecock Club and the Department of Student Life. Students must enter at the Whaley Street entrance of Stone Stadium. Students are encouraged to arrive early as the 300 free tickets are expected to go early. Gates open at 3:30 p.m., one hour prior to the Rutgers-Duke match.

South Carolina’s bid is the third consecutive and fourth overall for the program. It is the first time South Carolina has earned a national seed, coming in at No. 2 in the North Carolina bracket. The Gamecocks are 0-2-1 in NCAA Tournament games. The first bid came in a 2-0 loss at Charlotte in 1998 when the Gamecocks went 11-6-1 in the regular season. In 2007, Carolina earned an at-large bid with a 14-6-2 record when the Gamecocks played Duke to a 1-1 draw at Athens, Ga. Duke advanced with a 4-1 edge in penalty kicks. In 2008, South Carolina dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to William & Mary at Durham, N.C.

Davidson earned its first NCAA bid by defeating College of Charleston in the Southern Conference finals 1-0, the game winning goal by Amanda Flink coming with under two minutes remaining. Davidson, like South Carolina, won the conference title as a No. 4 seed by knocking off the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the conference. The Wildcats carry an eight-game unbeaten streak to Columbia with a defense that did not allow a goal during the SoCon Tournament (1-0 vs. UNCG, 1-0 vs. CofC). The team is led by three-time All-SoCon pick Kyri Bye-Nagel who has eight goals and five assists for 21 points. Sophomore goalkeeper Jessie Baxa has started 12 games in goal and sports a 1.38 goals against average with four shutouts.

In her ninth season, South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith sports a 98-65-24 record at the helm of the Gamecocks. She is two victories away from earning win No. 100 at South Carolina. Her all-time coaching record is 139-100-26 which includes her 41-35-2 record while coaching Rhode Island for four seasons.

South Carolina has been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium the past three seasons, posting a 31-2-5 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). The season opening win against College of Charleston was Coach Shelley Smith’s 50th win at Stone Stadium. Carolina went a perfect 9-0-0 at Stone Stadium this season.

The 2009 senior class will leave Columbia as the winningest senior class in program history. Entering weekend play, the group of seniors hold a 53-22-14 (.674) record, the most wins and best win-percentage for a South Carolina senior class. The group of seven has led Carolina to four consecutive SEC tournament appearances, the first SEC title in program history and the first NCAA Tournament national seed in program history.

With a 17-3-2 record and 7-3-1 SEC record, the Gamecocks have already earned program bests for overall and conference wins in a season. The Gamecocks finished a program-best second in the SEC East and came within one game of the winning the SEC title.

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 17 wins are tied for third in the country behind the top two teams in this week’s national polls: #1 Stanford (19) and #2 Portland (18). UCLA, North Carolina, Notre Dame and BYU are the teams that have 17 wins this season along with the Gamecocks.

South Carolina lost only three games this season, dropping road matches to No. 23 Georgia (2-1), No. 13 LSU (1-0) and No. 8 Florida (3-0). After earning the fourth seed for the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, South Carolina’s road to the title was setup to allow the Gamecocks to avenge their only three losses of the season. In Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, the Gamecocks defeated Georgia 3-2. In Friday’s semifinal round, the Gamecocks defeated Florida 1-0. The Gamecocks officialy tied LSU (1-1) in the final, but Carolina earned the title with an 8-7 edge in penalty kicks, giving South Carolina the rare chance to post a win or draw against every team on the 2009 schedule (also tied Mississippi State on the road).

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).