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Oct. 7, 2010

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

South Carolina at Auburn | Friday, 8 p.m. (ET)
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South Carolina at Alabama | Sunday, 3 p.m. (ET)
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 15 South Carolina will put its unbeaten road streak on the line this weekend when the team travels to the top two teams in the SEC West standings in Alabama and Auburn. The Gamecocks and Tigers will kickoff Friday at 8 p.m. before the team plays Alabama on Sunday at 3 p.m. South Carolina is 4-0-1 in road games this season, two games shy of the longest road unbeaten streak in school history.

Heading into the weekend, senior goalkeeper Mollie Patton has 30 career solo shutouts at South Carolina. Her 30 shutouts are three shy of tying the SEC record of 33, held by Megan Rivera of Auburn (2001-04). She already holds the SEC records for consecutive shutouts (7) and single-season shutouts (15), and was already the South Carolina all-time record holder before the season began. Patton played 45 minutes in last Sunday’s 7-0 win against Mississippi State, a combined shutout that does not count towards the record.

South Carolina returns to Stone Stadium next weekend with matches against SEC East rivals Georgia and Tennessee. Carolina and Georgia will play next Friday night at 7 p.m. before the Gamecocks take on the Lady Vols Sunday in a game nationally-televised by ESPNU at 3 p.m.

The overwhelming choice to win the SEC West this year, Auburn enters the weekend with a 2-2 SEC record with victories in their Friday night matches (Mississippi State and Arkansas) and losses in their Sunday matches (Ole Miss and LSU). The Gamecocks get the Tigers on a Friday night and will have their hands full with junior midfielder Katy Frierson, a two-time All-SEC performer and MAC Hermann Trophy candidate this year. Frierson leads the SEC in points with seven goals and seven assists (21 points). Amy Howard sports a 1.15 goals against average with four shutouts and a .720 save percentage. Carolina and Auburn have been two evenly matched teams since Coach Shelley Smith took over at SC — the record is 3-3-2 since 2001.

Considering the coaches preseason poll projections, Alabama has been the surprise of the SEC and enter the weekend atop the SEC West with 10 points and an unbeaten 3-0-1 record. The Crimson Tide are unbeaten in their last six games with five of those by virtue of shutout with the return of junior keeper Justine Bernier from Canadian national team duty. Bernier leads the SEC with a 0.16 goals against average and a .974 save percentage having given up one goal in 560 minutes. Alabama’s offensive attack is led by senior Brooke Rogers’s six goals for 12 points.

Three Gamecocks find themselves among the nation’s top 25 in various statistics as we pass the mid-point of the season. Junior Kayla Grimsley and sophomore Christine Watts have proven to be two of the top distributionists in the country with Grimsley No. 2 (9 assists) and Watts No. 24 (6 assists) in the NCAA in assists. Senior goalkeeper Mollie Patton remains the nation’s shutout leader with 8 despite not earning a solo shutout in last Sunday’s 7-0 win that saw three goalkeepers play. Patton is also 14th in the nation in goals against average (0.46) and comes in at 26th with a .870 save percentage.

Senior Mollie Patton currently holds the national lead with eight solo shutouts. A Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award nominee, Patton’s 30 career shutouts leaves her three shy of tying the all-time SEC record of 33 set by Auburn’s Megan Rivera (2002-04). She is tied with Central Michigan’s Shay Mannino for No. 2 on the list of active goalkeepers with 30 career shutouts (West Virginia’s Kerri Butler is the active leader at 36).

After struggling to put the ball in the net for much of the non-conference season, South Carolina emerged as an offensive threat in SEC play with 15 unanswered goals dating back to the 5-1 victory at Kentucky. Since Kentucky went ahead 1-0 in that match, South Carolina has been on a roll with five straight against the Wildcats, three goals against Ole Miss (3-0) and seven goals against Mississippi State (7-0). The Gamecocks posses the SEC’s No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense in all games played.

South Carolina has performed at a perfect level on Sunday afternoon matches, traditionally the toughest day of the week after playing a Friday game. The Gamecocks, 6-0-1 in Sunday matches this year, have outscored opponents 20-2 on Sundays with the lone blemishes coming in a 1-1 tie against Arizona State and a 5-1 win at Kentucky. Carolina has scored 12 goals in SEC Sunday matches this year. For the record, that means 20 of Carolina’s 27 goals have come on Sundays.

Senior forward Brooke Jacobs notched her first career hat trick with three goals in a 14-minute span against Mississippi State. The hat trick was the sixth in South Carolina history and the first against an SEC opponent. The last hat trick was performed by Erin Sullivan against The Citadel in 2006.

Junior midfielder Lolly Holland has been on fire for South Carolina with three goals in the last three games. She started against Kentucky due to an injury to starter Kira Campbell and responded by notching her second goal of the year. She followed that up with goals against Ole Miss and Mississippi State last weekend and is currently tied for third on the team with four goals on the year. Her first tally came in the season opener against Boston University, which coincidentally was her first career goal as well.

Sophomore Christine Watts played as Carolina’s first person off the bench last season as a backup midfielder. This season, Watts has been asked to play a new role as the team’s starting right back, and the transition has been seamless. She has already earned six assists from her new position with two of those assists coming on game-winning goals. Watts also hit the game-winning goal against Mississippi State. For her efforts she was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

Junior Kira Campbell missed the Kentucky game after suffering a concussion against Vanderbilt two nights before. The Lexington, S.C. native returned in the next game against Ole Miss and responded by knocking in her first career goal in the 15th minute for what proved to be the game-winner.