Aug. 17, 2016
More Previews: Goalkeepers | Defenders | Midfielders
The Gamecocks featured one of the most prolific offenses in program history last season. South Carolina’s 44 goals were the fifth-highest single-season total in program history, and its 2.2 goals per match, the highest scoring average under head coach Shelley Smith, ranked second in the SEC.
Three forwards totaled at least five goals on the season, including returnees Savannah McCaskill and Sophie Groff. The Gamecock offense was at its best at Stone Stadium, where it outscored its opponents, 29-7, on the year. South Carolina notched four goals or more three times at home, and forwards accounted for 31 of the team’s 44 goals throughout the season.
McCaskill, a Third-Team NSCAA All-American last year, headlines the veteran group of attackers this season. Her 29 points last fall marked the sixth-highest single-season total in school history, and the Irmo, S.C., native enters her third year already in the program’s top-10 in career points (44) and assists (14).
Senior Sophie Groff tallied six goals in each of the last two seasons, and her 15 career scores match McCaskill for the most among current players. The Grapevine, Texas, native led the Gamecocks in shot on goal percentage (.727) before sustaining an ACL injury last fall, and her six career game-winners are good for the sixth-best total in school history.
Sophomore Simone Wark and senior Daija Griffin will also be dangerous in the attacking third. Wark led all freshmen in goals (3) and points (8) last fall, and she tallied the game-winner on the road against Missouri (Sept. 20). Griffin, who has appeared in every match over the last three seasons, sports career totals of six goals and 19 points.
An experienced trio of seniors rounds out the attacking group, which consists entirely of letterwinners. Bay Daniel saw time in 65 of South Carolina’s 68 matches over the last three seasons, and she tallied one goal as a junior, scoring against Kennesaw State (Sept. 14).
Vanessa Kovar and Claire Studebaker will continue to add depth to the group of forwards. Kovar, who has seen time as a forward and midfielder, has played in 36 matches, including seven appearances last year. Studebaker appeared in a career-high nine matches in 2015, and the Summerfield, N.C., native has played in 18 games overall.
Coach Shelley Smith’s Take
“A large group of returning players will bring their improved games back for the season. They are all hungry to score goals. Sophie and Savannah proved to be a dangerous duo in 2015, and Sophie has worked hard to return as strong as ever after tearing her ACL.”