Sept. 15, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite controlling today’s match for the majority of the 90 minutes, No. 18/9 South Carolina (7-0-1) narrowly slipped past East Carolina (3-3-2), 1-0, at Stone Stadium by way of junior defender Christa Neary’s second-half goal. The win finishes off an undefeated non-conference campaign for the Gamecocks, the first since 2009 and marks only the third time in program history that the Garnet and Black have been unbeaten through its first eight games.
“I think it shows that we’ve played very well in the first part of the season, even like today when we couldn’t find the back of the net as many times as we would have liked, we found a way to win in non-conference play with another shutout,” Head Coach Shelley Smith said of the undefeated run through the early part of the season. “I’m proud of the team’s effort today. We’re excited to go into conference play in the position we’re at.”
From start to finish the Gamecocks appeared to be on a mission today, camping out in the Pirates end for much of the game as they dominated the shot chart 17-1 and held an 8-0 edge in shots on goal.
In the eighth minute, freshman midfielder Chelsea Drennan caught ECU keeper Saundra Baron out of position and took an attempt toward the right post but it landed just wide. Ten minutes later, freshman forward Sophie Groff had the ball land at her feet just inside the six-yard box where she ripped a shot off the right post. The attempt caromed off to the far side where sophomore midfielder Raina Johnson took a crack at the rebound, but Baron was there to rob the put back.
In the 29th minute, freshman forward Daija Griffin got space from her defender on the right side before slipping in a cross to fellow freshman Vanessa Kovar who directed the ball toward goal from the six, but Baron was able to keep the ball from crossing the line as she fell backward toward her goal.
Griffin’s havoc wasn’t done in the first half as the freshman found the ball at her feet from eight yards out, but again, the ECU defense came up with another big stop as the ball was blocked away by a defender before it could find the back of the net.
Despite a half time stat line that was 10-1 in shots, and the ball seeing very little time in the Gamecocks end, the two sides remind knotted up at the half at 0-0. The offensive aggression remind the same in the second half for the Gamecocks as they continuously sent one probing ball after another into the Pirate penalty box.
In the 67th minute, the pursuit finally paid off. Groff, who already found the right post earlier in the day, hit another rocket from short-range, but this time found the crossbar unkind to her attempt. The shot clanged off the bar and looked to be out of danger for ECU. Neary though, got the ball 20 yards out and looked to send a dangerous ball back into the box. The junior’s ball though ended up finding the back of the net as it curled inside the far left post past a helpless Baron who was unable to find it in congested box.
Neary looked to double her goal output two minutes later, but a long, lofted attempt narrowly found the topside of the crossbar and bounced out of play.
With the game seemingly locked up, Johnson put in one last effort to double the lead for the Gamecocks as headed ball dropped to on her the left side of the six. The sophomore put an attempt on frame, but a Pirate defender was able knock it away before it could cross the line.
With the non-conference season completed, South Carolina will now turn its attention toward the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks will open SEC play on Aug. 20 as they travel to Georgia (7-1-0) for a 7 p.m., showdown.
Season tickets for women’s soccer, which includes admission to all home games, are currently on sale in the Gamecock Ticket Office. Fans can purchase tickets online at GamecocksOnline.com, or by calling 1-800-4SC-FANS. Cost for season tickets for women’s soccer is $25 for adults and $10 for youth (17 and under).