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Aug. 4, 2010

Miquel Jacobs, Media Relations Assistant

Gamecocks Begin Practice

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Fresh off the most successful season in program history, the South Carolina women’s soccer team hit the practice fields Wednesday for the first time to officially start the 2010 edition of Coach Shelley Smith’s team.

“I think the team looks great,” Smith, the 2009 SEC and NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year, said. “It’s exciting to have them back. They’re excited for the fall to start. You can see it on the field. I appreciate the effort today. It’s hot. They’re doing a lot to handle the heat and put it on the field. If they keep that going through the preseason, we’ll be in good shape for the first game.”

One of the first orders of business for the new year came when Coach Smith named seniors Brittiny Rhoades and Mollie Patton as co-captains for the 2010 season. Rhoades, a former Freshman All-American at left back, is a three-year starter and will anchor the stellar Gamecock backline that led the SEC the past two seasons. Patton had a breakout junior season last year in setting the South Carolina and the SEC record for solo shutouts with 15 on the year. She enters her final season needing 11 shutouts to tie and 12 shutouts to set the SEC all-time record for shutouts.

“We both bring a lot of experience to the team,” Patton said of the two captains. “We’re good leaders. I feel like we got the team to become one. We have a lot of freshman so its important to make sure they’re part of the team and not separate, so I think we did a good job to make sure they feel welcome here.”

With the start of two-a-days, the Gamecocks hit the fields at 8:15 a.m. and immediately began getting the players on the ball work after completing fitness testing. The coaching staff used the day to begin working on technical work and team chemistry, two things that were major components in leading last year’s SEC Tournament championship team to a 19-4-2 record, a No. 9 national ranking and a berth in the NCAA Round of 16.

“We lost a chunk of our starters from last fall, so really we won’t know how the team will form until the preseason training,” Smith explained. “That’s what this is all about. We’ll replace last year’s starters with returners or freshman, anyone that can come in and win the spot. The players are working hard to help each other, and the new players are coming along in learning the system. There are great opportunities for new players to start for us, and the returning players are continuing to do well and be leaders. We’re excited to see how it all comes together before our first match.”

South Carolina opens the 2010 season on Aug. 20 when the team travels to Boston, Mass., to play the Terriers and Northeastern Huskies. Fans can get their first look at the 2010 team and get signed posters at the Fan Appreciation Day scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15 at 12:30 p.m.