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Oct. 1, 2010

Final Stats

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

Coach Smith

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Defense has been the name of the game for South Carolina under head coach Shelley Smith, and Friday night’s nationally-televised match against the Mississippi Rebels portrayed that trait in grand fashion as the No. 20 Gamecocks (8-2-2, 2-0-1 SEC) shutout Ole Miss (5-6-1, 1-2-0 SEC), 3-0, in the NSCAA National Game of the Week.

Televised by the Fox Soccer Channel, Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award nominee Mollie Patton garnered her nation-leading eighth shutout of the year despite not having to do any work thanks to the backline of Preseason All-SEC selection Brittiny Rhoades, junior Ellen Fahey and sophomores Dani Henry and Christine Watts. The back four pushed the Gamecocks to a 16-1 shot advantage on the night, but the lone Mississippi shot came on a desperation attempt from 20 yards out with one second remaining in the match that was blocked before the clock struck double-zeros.

A bevy of juniors took control of the game for the Gamecocks with their scores. Junior Kira Campbell hit the game-winning goal in the 15th minute courtesy of an assist from freshman Danielle Au, who played a tremendous game in the midfield with her touches throughout the night. Junior Maria Petroni added the second goal in the 54th minute off a cross by Brooke Jacobs. Petroni then assisted a goal by junior Lolly Holland in the 87th minute to round out the scoring.

“We had a majority of the possession,” Smith said of the match. “It gets frustration for a team if you have that going for you and don’t finish your chances. Tonight we did that. It gave us confidence going forward and didn’t put pressure on us.”

Things on the offensive and defensive ends just seemed to go right for the Gamecocks the entire night, even when the results ended in collective sighs at opportunities lost. In addition to the three goals scored, South Carolina had two called back – one in each half – to prevent the team from recording its second consecutive five-goal match. Both goals called back came off corner kicks by Rhoades, who proved deadly on set pieces on the night with the Gamecocks enjoying a 4-1 advantage on corners. In the 41st minute, Rhoades connected with Fahey for a goal that would have made the score 2-0, but what would have been Fahey’s first career goal was nullified due to a foul called on the play. In the 63rd, freshman Elizabeth Sinclair also had her first career goal called back after her header off a Rhoades corner was also called off due to a foul.

If anything, the flow of the game likely came from the fact that the Gamecocks seemed excited from the opening whistle. South Carolina was whistled for eight offsides penalties after entering the match with an average of two per game. A perfectly placed ball by Campbell for Jacobs in the 19th minute saw an offsides call negate a chance for a two-yard shot. That penalty just 19 minutes into the game was already the fourth offsides call against the Gamecocks, who finished with five in the first half and three in the second.

To pile onto the missed goals due to whistle blows, South Carolina had two 1v1 opportunities end without points. In the 22nd, Kayla Grimsley and Rhoades found themselves in a 2v1 against the keeper, but Mississippi freshman Sarah Story came out the victor on the shot attempt by Grimsley, one of four saves on the night by Story. The 51st minute saw Sinclair play a beautiful thru ball for Jacobs, but her attempt from 12 yards out missed wide. The Gamecocks lost another look in the 55th as Campbell created her own space 20 yards out and hit the crossbar.

The Rebels also earned a team save in the 84th minute when an Ole Miss defender knocked out an attempt by Holland on the line, and the follow-up was corralled by Story to end the threat. Holland would eventually get through in the 87th with a 1v1 opportunity to give the Gamecocks the final 3-0 margin.

“Everything we do stems from our defensive effort,” Smith said. “We make sure we get behind the ball and make it hard for us to get broken down. The midfield has to win the midfield. Ours did a good job to battle and win the knockdowns, and then create things out of that and pass out of it. Offensively, we’re getting better playing balls out in the space we’ve created.”

South Carolina will play Mississippi State on Sunday in a game regionally-televised by CSS at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs dropped a 7-1 match to Florida Friday night in Gainesville, Fla.