Oct. 29, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – First-half goals by South Carolina seniors Emily Bollinger and Carly Ray pushed the No. 17 Gamecocks past Tennessee 4-0, on Senior Night Thursday evening at Stone Stadium. With the victory, South Carolina concludes the regular season at 12-4-2 and finished Southeastern Conference play with a mark of 6-3-2. The Volunteers drop to 7-5-6 and 3-5-3 in league action.
The Gamecocks put the match out of reach in the early going, netting three goals in the first 15 minutes. South Carolina opened the scoring in the fifth minute on Bollinger’s goal following a blocked shot and a failed misclear by the UT defenders.
The mistake created a breakaway for Savannah McCaskill, and the sophomore forward put a shot on goal that was blocked by the Tennessee defense. The ensuing deflection eventually fell to Bollinger, who calmly floated the ball over the outstretched hands of Volunteer goalkeeper Julie Eckel.
Five minutes later, South Carolina pushed its lead to 2-0 on a corner kick after a shot by sophomore Dominique Babbitt deflected out of bounds. Junior midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s corner into the box connected with the head of Carly Ray at the far post, and the senior defender knocked the ball into the back of the net.
Drennan and Ray hooked up for a near-identical scoring play in the 15th minute following another South Carolina corner kick, as Ray scored at the far post for the second time on the night.
Both teams settled into the match the rest of the first half, and the Gamecocks took a 3-0 advantage into the break after outshooting the Volunteers 11-3 in the first 45 minutes.
South Carolina midfielder Lindsey Lane tallied the insurance goal on a counterattack by the Gamecocks in the 73rd minute. Junior Daija Griffin provided the service on the goal, as she threaded a through ball to Lane near the left side of the box before the midfielder volleyed a beautiful ball into the top right corner of the net.
Senior goalkeeper Caroline Kelly needed to make just two saves on her way to her second shutout and sixth win of the season. The Gamecocks, who boasted a 21-5 shot advantage in Thursday’s win, finished the regular season with six clean sheets.
Kelly and seven other seniors, Bollinger, Ray, forwards Raina Johnson and Coryn Bajema, midfielder Stevi Parker, defender Caroline Gray and Emily Ball were all honored in a ceremony prior to the match. This year’s senior class led South Carolina to 50 wins over the last four seasons and guided the Gamecocks to their first-ever NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2014.
The second goal between Drennan and Ray in the 15th minute pushed the Gamecocks’ lead to three (3-0) and gave them control of the contest. The scoring play marked the team-leading 10th assist for Drennan in 2015.
Two of South Carolina’s four goals against Tennessee came on corner kicks. The Gamecocks finished the match with a 6-3 advantage in attempts from the corner.
>> Thursday’s match was just the fifth time the Volunteers have allowed multiple goals in a game this season. South Carolina’s four goals marked the most against the Volunteers this this fall.
>> Midfielder Chelsea Drennan now boasts eight multi-assist games in her career. The junior, who has led the Gamecocks in assists in each of the last two seasons, has tallied double-digit helpers in two of her first three years at South Carolina. She heads into the SEC Tournament with a team-high 10 for the season. That is also tied for the fourth-highest single-season mark by a Gamecock player.
>> Goals by senior defenders Emily Bollinger and Carly Ray marked the first career scores for the pair of Gamecocks. Thursday was the first career start for Bollinger.
>> The Gamecocks have won seven of their last eight matches over the Volunteers.
South Carolina Head Coach Shelley Smith
We are obviously very happy with that result and the way we performed tonight. I was very proud of the team’s effort and happy for the seniors to finish that way. It was just an all-around tremendous performance. We need to take that into next week. I’m thrilled with the outcome.
Emily Bollinger hasn’t played a lot of minutes in her career, so for her to come in and play out of position and finish the way she did really set the tone for us. That’s what you need. Carly Ray stepped up to score two goals. The team executed tonight.
We responded well to some very disappointing results. We want to give ourselves a chance to win a championship next week because we missed that opportunity in the regular season. We have a team that shows it is capable of winning and we need to make sure to take that into Orange Beach.
The Gamecocks return to action when they begin play at the 2015 SEC Soccer Tournament (Nov. 2-8) at Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Ala. South Carolina secured a first-round bye in the event. The Gamecocks are seeded No. 5 and will face No. 4 Auburn on Wednesday, Nov. 4. The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.