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Oct. 9, 2011

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By Miquel Jacobs
Assistant Media Relations Director

October 9, 2011
Team 1st 2nd Total
Auburn 0 1 1
South Carolina 2 1 3
Coach Smith
Maria Petroni Danielle Au

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina scored at least three goals for the third consecutive game to knock off No. 22 Auburn 3-1 Sunday afternoon at Stone Stadium. Maria Petroni and Gabrielle Gilbert scored first half goals off corner kicks before Danielle Au iced the win in the 66th minute to leads the Gamecocks to their second victory against a ranked opponent this season.

The win improves South Carolina to 10-5-0 and 4-2-0 in the SEC while Auburn drops their third straight to fall to 9-4-1 overall and 3-3-0 in conference play. South Carolina previously knocked off then-No. 11 Tennessee in Knoxville by a 2-1 score for their first win against a ranked opponent this year.

“You could see our team really coming together (recently),” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “They’ve figured out offensively how to play off each other much better. That’s taken time, work and a lot of coordination between those players. They feel it and they’ve figured some things out. Credit to them to get the goals and create so many chances for each other. Our defense has played very solid and taken pressure off us because they’re making good decisions. That leads to your offensive chances, so credit to both sides of the ball. We’re a better team than what our record shows. We’re playing at the great potential we have and continuing to do better. That’s what you want to do at the end of the season, and definitely during conference play.”

For the second straight Sunday match Petroni scored an early first half goal off an Ali Whitney corner kick to put the Gamecocks ahead 1-0 at 26:32. Last Sunday on ESPNU, the duo connected just two minutes into the match before doing so again this Sunday on a game televised by CSS and

“We had an awesome in-swinging corner from Ali Whitney,” Petroni said. “Her set pieces have been key for us. We’ve scored four or five goals off of her. She just swung it in and I got a knee off of it. We had a few rough games at the start of SEC play, but we’ve come together as a team. We’re working our butts off. We’re all running for each other and picking each other up. It’s definitely an intensity change. We can beat anybody the way we played today.”

Sophomore Gabrielle Gilbert scored the game-winner at 39:14 off a corner kick by Kayla Grimsley to put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0. Grimsley’s corner was headed down by Ellen Fahey and volleyed into the net by Gilbert for her first game winner of the season. The assist by Grimsley was her fourth of the weekend. Gilbert later assisted Au’s goal with a thru ball that Au finished to the far post to give the Gamecocks a 3-1 lead at 65:21.

The goal ended a spectacular weekend for Au who had three goals in wins against Alabama and Auburn. It is the third consecutive season that the Gamecocks took the maximum six points against the two Alabama schools.

“Gabby played a great ball,” Au said. “Our offense has been really good the past three games. We’ve had great teamwork, so it’s great that I had the opportunity to finish off a ball. We knew we had to work together. We knew if our offense clicks it will generate a lot of goals.”

Julie King scored the lone goal for Auburn just 17 seconds into the second half when All-American Katy Frierson sent a ball into the box that King finished handily.

Freshman goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo recorded seven saves in the match, one shy of her career high. The freshman continues to impress in her rookie campaign for the Gamecocks.

For the third straight game, South Carolina was on from the start with an amazing display that resulted in 19 shots and 10 corner kicks. The Gamecocks nearly took the lead in the eighth minute when Fahey finished a header off a Grimsley corner kick, but the ref called a foul on the play after the ball crossed the line. The Tigers, who were able to control much of the possession in the opening 15 minutes, were gifted an opportunity in the 19th minute when King found herself alone in front of the net, but the senior sent her shot over the goal. Kortney Rhoades gave two looks in the middle of the half with a ball in the 21st that slid along the line before missing wide and a shot in the 25th that Auburn’s Amy Howard made a diving save to collect.

Just two minutes later, Petroni opened the scoring with a goal on Whitney’s corner kick that grazed by the endline and straight to the forward. Gilbert made it 2-0 in the 40th with her volley to give the Gamecocks the 2-0 lead going into the break.

The Tigers struck quick after the break with King’s goal just 17 seconds into the restart. The Gamecocks immediately went on the offensive to try and reclaim the two-goal lead with a shot by Au that beat the keeper missed wide in the 52nd and a blast by Elizabeth Sinclair in the 54th that clanked off the cross bar. Following Au’s goal in the 66th minute, the Gamecocks coasted through the final whistle to take the victory and three points crucial towards the SEC standings.

South Carolina hits the road next weekend with a trip to the Magnolia State to jump-start a three-match road swing. The Gamecocks will take on Mississippi State Friday and Ole Miss Sunday to continue competition against the SEC West.