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Sept. 19, 2013

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The South Carolina women’s golf team continues fall action this weekend when it opens play on Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship in Knoxville, Tenn. The 54-hole event runs through Sunday at the par-71, 5,897-yard Cherokee Country Club.

The 17-team field consists of two top-25 teams in the GolfWorld/WGCA Preseason Poll, through two tournaments the Gamecocks will have competed against six different top 25 teams.

No. 8 Arkansas highlights the field and is one of six teams representing the SEC along with Missouri, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and host Tennessee. Campbell, Chattanooga, College of Charleston, Louisville, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rollins, Tulane, UCF and UTSA round out the field.

South Carolina is coming off a sixth place finish at the Cougar Classic, with two Gamecocks placing in the top 10 on the individual leaderboard. Junior Justine Dreher, who competed in the tournament as and individual, led the way for the Garnet and Black finishing in a tie for sixth. The native of Valbonne, France, shot rounds of 71-73-70=214 to finish 2-under par and recorded a team-best 13 birdies. Samantha Swinehart finished in a tie for 10th place, which is a new career best for the senior. She posted a three round total of 216 (E) and had the only ace of the tournament. Senior Suzie Lee finished next on the leaderboard for South Carolina posting a third-round 68 (-4), which ties a career-best, for a total of 218 (+2) and landing her in a tie for 19th. Freshman Katelyn Dambuagh and sophomore Mary Fran Hillow concluded the tournament in a tie for 37th with totals of 221 (+5). Sophomore Sarah Schemelzel shot three consecutive rounds of 74 (+2) to finish in a tie for 44th.

“We had a lot of positive things in our first event,” said head coach Kalen Harris. “We played really well day one and day three we got off to a little bit of a rocky start but they really came back and finished strong and I was really proud of them. We were 10-over at one point in the third round and brought it back to one over. The depth of our team is really strong and we’re seeing a lot of positive things. The second day at the Cougar Classic was difficult and that kind of shot us out of the tournament, but overall really good stuff. We’re looking forward to getting going this weekend.”

This will mark South Carolina’s ninth appearance in the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship since the tournament began in 1997. The last trip the Gamecocks made to the event was in 2011 for the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge and they finished 17th. The Gamecocks’ best finish at the event came two years prior in 2009 as they took third place.

“We’re going to go out there and stick to our process,” said Harris. “Obviously we’re looking to contend for the championship, this is a group that we can certainly do that with. Each day of practice and each tournament we’re looking to get better and improve on things that will prepare us for the postseason. We’re preparing our game and our minds to win the event but it’s a shot by shot, it’s a day by day, we’re going to stick to our process and add them up at the end and hopefully we’ll be number one at the end. But again, it’s a process and we’re looking to get better every week.”

South Carolina will head to Knoxville with the same six golfers it took to the Cougar Classic but the lineup will be slightly altered. Dreher will be at the top of this weekend’s lineup, seniors Swinehart and Lee will fill the two and three spots respectively, freshman Katelyn Dambuagh will be fourth and sophomore Mary Fran Hillow will round out Gamecocks’ lineup. Schemelzel will also make the trip and compete in the tournament as an individual.

The Gamecocks will be paired with Tulane and UCF for the first round and will tee off starting at 10:15 a.m. on hole No. 10. Live scoring will be available by clicking Here.