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March 31, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team has reached the midpoint of its spring exhibition season and remains undefeated after weekend victories against SEC rivals Georgia and Tennessee.

The Gamecocks are 4-0-1 overall this spring after playing S.C. State, N.C. State, Mercer, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina shutout N.C. State (2-0), S.C. State (3-0) and Georgia (1-0) to go along with a 3-2 win against Tennessee. The lone draw came against Mercer, 1-1. With the spring season, soccer teams are able to work with their returning players against other teams and continue the off-season training and evaluation process.

“It has been an enjoyable and productive spring season,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “With the loss of a strong senior class and half of our starting 11 from the fall, there has been an opportunity for returning players to take on new roles. Over the course of the spring season, players have been given the chance to step up into leadership positions and show their commitment to compete on the field and in the weight room to better themselves as a team and individually. All of the roster has seen quality playing time, so we have had a very good evaluation of returning players.”

South Carolina opened the spring season with three straight home matches. After defeating the Bulldogs and Wildcats by multiple goals, the Gamecocks got off to a strong start against Mercer two weeks ago with a goal by Maria Petroni in the eighth minute. However, despite controlling the run of play through the remaining 30-minute periods, the Gamecocks allowed a late goal behind a relaxed defensive front despite a collection of dazzling saves by goalkeeper Roya Mojarab.

The team then traveled to Athens, Ga., to take on SEC East rivals Georgia and Tennessee last weekend. In the first game, South Carolina defeated the Lady Vols 3-2 before shutting out the home team 1-0 with a 9-6 shot advantage. The goal came at the 38:07 mark of a 60-minute game.

“Our weekend in Georgia was very encouraging,” Smith said. “Coming off a lackluster performance the weekend before against Mercer, we were all very disappointed in the effort. The team responded very well in their week of training following that game and prepared themselves to compete against two strong SEC opponents on the road. We were very proud of the way the team came out to play and step up to the challenge. The players also did well to make the necessary adjustments in the two games after each halftime. Everyone was given a chance to play and when called upon, gave their best effort to contribute to the two wins. How we continue to react and learn from situations and challenges will make us better, so I have been happy with the team’s improvements. We will have two more contests this spring to continue to improve upon our growth and further evaluate the team as we head into the summer.”

The Gamecocks return 20 of 32 players from a team that won the program’s first SEC title and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16. Returning players include All-Region players Mollie Patton and Kayla Grimsley, former Freshman All-American Brittiny Rhoades, and regular starters Brooke Jacobs, Kortney Rhoades, Ellen Fahey and Kira Campbell.

“Our returning starters have continued to lead on the field and have worked hard to keep earning those roles,” Smith said. “Kira Campbell, who has started for us at times since she was a freshman, has had a great spring. Her work ethic and determination has been present daily at training and carried over into games. If she and her teammates can keep up that through the summer months, we are going to have some solid options as starters to replace those we have lost.”

South Carolina heads to Davidson this weekend to take on the Wildcats, a rematch of sorts from the NCAA First Round match this past season. The Alumni Game will be held Sat., April 17 at noon.