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Nov. 7, 2010

Final Stats

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

South Carolina will hold a watch party Monday night when the bracket for the 2010 NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament is announced. The Gamecocks will meet at Carolina Ale House in The Vista from 4:20-5 p.m. The brackets will be announced on ESPNU in the 4:30-5 p.m. block. Fans are encouraged to celebrate with the Gamecocks as the team anticipates advancing to its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – South Carolina dropped the SEC Tournament championship match to Florida by a score of 1-0 courtesy of a Gamecock own goal in the 69th minute. The championship appearance was the second consecutive for second-seed South Carolina (14-5-4) while top-seed Florida (18-2-2) wins its first SEC tournament title since 2007.

For the second championship match in a row between South Carolina and Florida this season, the Gators earned a goal by unconventional, albeit effective, methods. In the regular season championship match nine days ago, the Gators earned a 1-0 victory after scoring a much-discussed free kick with two seconds remaining in the first half. In Sunday’s tournament championship match, the Gators went ahead 1-0 at 68:07 courtesy of a South Carolina own goal.

“I told them I’m proud of them,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “They left everything they had on the field today. We knew fatigue would be a factor. We tried to get as many minutes as we could out of the starting group. The quality of our play wasn’t as strong as we’d like it simply because our legs didn’t allow us to. That’s unfortunate because of the way we battled and fought to be here. It makes our coaches proud of what they’re willing to do for each other and the program. We know they’ll do well going into next week when they’ve had some rest.”

South Carolina seniors Mollie Patton and Brittiny Rhoades and junior Kayla Grimsley were each named to the SEC All-Tournament team. Patton posted a 0.87 goals against average in the tournament while Rhoades anchored a defense that allowed opponents to score only two goals, not including the own goal in Sunday’s match. Grimsley led the Gamecocks with a goal and an assist in the tournament, and she also hit the game-winning penalty kick in both shootouts to advance to the final.

“All three of them are team leaders for us,” Smith said. “Brittiny and Mollie are captains, and Kayla is a leader on the field. They come to play to win. They lead the team, so it’s more than what they do when they touch the ball. It’s how they compete and bring others into the game and step up when challenged. They’ve done well all year and it continued in this tournament. They are three players among a group of many that gave everything they had until the final whistle blew today.”

Carolina gave pressure early with two good plays across the frame in the opening minutes. Maria Petroni tracked a ball down on the right flank and crossed to Brooke Jacobs for a header that required a save by the keeper. Shortly after, Brittiny Rhoades sent a ball across that hit Danielle’s Au head, but she couldn’t direct it towards the net.

Five minutes in, Rhoades sent a corner kick into the penalty area, and the shot by Kira Campbell was directed in the opening but was headed away at the final second by SEC Defensive Player of the Year Kat Williamson, preventing the Gamecocks from taking the early lead. Chancey again made a great save in the 15th minute after Kayla Grimsley fought her way past the defenders and into the penalty area, luring the goalkeeper out and into the flank, but the netminder was able to get her fingers on Grimsley’s pass.

Jacobs earned a breakaway in the 23rd courtesy of passes from Campbell and Grimsley that found her with open space on the right, but she got a bad foot on the shot and sent it wide to prevent the scoring opportunity. Shortly after, Grimsley baffled the Gator defense with a chip pass over the top, but Jacobs got tangled with her defender and couldn’t get a shot on the ball.

Following the media timeout in the 25th minute, the Gators began to attack with more physical pressure, taking over the lead in shots while forcing the Gamecock backline to do more work. Mollie Patton kept the game at a deadlock in the 29th after running off her line to prevent a growing 1v1 opportunity by McKenzie Barney. The Gamecocks would stand back though with back-to-back shots in the final five minutes of the match that both went high of the frame.

After the break, Patton single-handedly kept South Carolina into the game with three world-class saves in the opening nine minutes. Patton, the SEC’s career leader in goals against average, was first tested with a diving save on a shot by First Team All-SEC selection Erika Tymrack before making another brilliant save following a Gator set piece that saw All-SEC player Tahnai Annis get a tap-in chance in front of the net. Minutes later Patton grabbed another out of the air as Carolina found itself on the defensive throughout the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Needing a spark offensively, the Gamecocks made a line change in the 64th with five substitutes entering the match, changing all but the dominant backline and Grimsley up top. The move worked initially before Florida went ahead on an own goal by South Carolina in the 69th minute. Florida sent a cross into the penalty area that was broken up by the Gamecock defense with Patton out to parry the ball, but the final touch deflected into the net to give the Gators a 1-0 lead.

The last own goal given up by Carolina coincidentally occurred in the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks allowed an own goal against Georgia in the 2007 SEC Tournament semifinal round.

Fighting for an equalizer, Grimsley earned a yellow card in the 78th minute after colliding with the goalkeeper on a 50-50 ball in the penalty area. Chancey came out and jumped to make the save while Grimsley jumped to get a header, but the collision went against the attacker with the keeper vulnerable in the air.

With seven minutes remaining in the match, All-SEC defender Brittiny Rhoades moved up to the attack, similar to the move made in last season’s SEC championship match with All-SEC defender Blakely Mattern moving up and scoring the game-tying goal with two minutes remaining. The move gave Carolina a strong offensive presence in the final minutes of the match, but Carolina could not get the equalizer with Florida taking the 1-0 victory.