Aug. 17, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Five South Carolina women’s soccer players were named to the SEC soccer coaches’ preseason watch list, the league announced on Wednesday afternoon. Seniors Kaleigh Kurtz, Paige Bendell, Chelsea Drennan and Sophie Groff earned the nod along with junior forward and 2015 Third-Team NSCAA All-American Savannah McCaskill.
The 24th season of women’s soccer in the SEC kicks off on Fri., Aug. 19, with 12 conference members in action throughout the day. No. 24 South Carolina opens its season that night on the road against Oklahoma at 8 p.m. ET, and its weekend continues with a neutral contest against Tulsa on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks’ home opener is set for Thu., Aug. 25, against NC State at 7 p.m. ET.
Kurtz and Bendell enter their final season at South Carolina as the anchors of the Gamecock back line. Kurtz started all 20 matches last season and helped Carolina notch six shutouts, including three clean sheets in its last four home matches of the regular season. Bendell saw time in 18 matches and made 13 starts as a junior. The Orland Park, Ill., native put four of her nine shot attempts on target and finished the season with an assist.
Drennan, South Carolina’s captain this fall, has been the catalyst for the Gamecock offense the last three seasons, leading the team in assists each year. She stands just four assists short of the program record, and her nine career game-winning assists rank second in school history. Drennan was one of four Gamecocks to notch double-digit points last season, as she totaled 12 points on 10 assists and a goal.
Groff and McCaskill lead a South Carolina offense that tallied the fifth-most goals (44) in program history last season. Groff’s 15 career goals are tied with McCaskill for the most among returning players, and the Grapevine, Texas, native’s shot on goal percentage (.727) last fall was the third-highest single-season mark in school history.
In addition to her All-America laurels, McCaskill grabbed First-Team All-SEC honors last season after leading the Gamecocks with 29 points on 10 goals and nine assists. Her 1.45 points per match were the third-best mark in the SEC, and she also ranked in the top five in the league in points, total assists and assists per game (0.45). McCaskill’s career totals of 14 assists and 44 points both stand in the top 10 in program history.
South Carolina’s season opener against the Sooners can be seen on Fox College Sports Central, available on the FOX Sports Go App. Check back on GamecocksOnline.com Thursday for a full preview of both of this weekend’s contests.