Oct. 19, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2 South Carolina women’s soccer aims to extend its program-record 14-match winning streak when it faces Vanderbilt on the road Thursday (Oct. 20) in Nashville, Tenn. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the contest can be seen on SEC Network+, available through WatchESPN. With a win against the Commodores and an Auburn loss Thursday, the Gamecocks will clinch at least a share of the SEC Regular-Season title.
FROM THE COACH
“We’ve been really solid defensively, and kept ourselves in matches. We’re stifling offenses and letting our attack do their thing and try and find a goal. Vanderbilt is another good possession team. We know it’s going to be a battle, and we’ve always had a tough time playing there. They’ve had some great results in the SEC, and it’s going to take a big effort on our part to play well.” — South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
The Commodores return to Vanderbilt Soccer Complex after dropping a road match to Missouri last Friday (Oct. 14). They sport a mark of 5-2-1 at home this season, and they’re 4-3-1 in SEC play and 8-6-1 overall. Vanderbilt split its two matches against top-25 opponents this season, falling to No. 2 Florida State 3-0 on Aug. 25 before moving past Texas A&M 2-0 on Sept. 22. Both contests took place in Nashville.
Freshman midfielder Grace Jackson leads the Commodores with 16 points on five goals and six assists. Senior defender Sasha Gray ranks second on the team in points (11) and goals (4), while freshman forward Kaylann Boyd marks the other Vanderbilt player with double-digit points (10) in 2016. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Fahrner has played 13 games in net, where she has tallied three shutouts.
South Carolina is 4-14-15 all-time against the Commodores in a series that dates back to 1995. The Gamecocks are unbeaten in six of their last seven matches against Vanderbilt, and four of the last six games between the two have gone into overtime.
LAST TIME OUT
South Carolina downed its second-straight ranked opponent this past Sunday (Oct. 16), topping No. 17 Florida 1-0 in overtime at Stone Stadium. Midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick in the 103rd minute secured the victory for the Gamecocks, who pushed their unbeaten streak to a program-record 15 matches. The Gators were whistled for a foul in the box after a Florida defender tripped Carolina sophomore forward Simone Wark. Drennan fired her penalty attempt into the top left corner, as the senior captain notched her second game-winner of the season.
The Gamecocks outshot Florida 15-9 for the match and held the Gators to four attempts on frame, including just two over the final 58 minutes. Freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski totaled four saves on the afternoon to move to 11-0-1 and pick up her SEC-leading seventh shutout.
The Gamecocks remained at No. 2 in Tuesday’s NSCAA Top-25 Poll, receiving five first-place votes. South Carolina also stayed at No. 3 in this week’s NCAA soccer’s RPI Rankings. Both positions are the best in program history, and the Gamecocks also sit in the top three in the current TopDrawerSoccer.com (No. 2) and Soccer America (No. 3) polls.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
The Gamecocks, who sport the top winning percentage (.967) in Division I, are one of two teams still unbeaten on the year. Bucknell marks the other undefeated team, as the Bison enter this week at 12-0-1 on the year. The Gamecocks went unbeaten (6-0-1) in non-conference play for the first time since 2013, and their 14-0-1 record is their best start to a season ever.
CONFERENCE CLEAN SHEETS
South Carolina’s performance against the Gators this past weekend marked its sixth shutout in SEC play this season. The Gamecocks have allowed just two goals in conference action, and they have yet to allow a goal on the road against an SEC foe in 2016. Carolina, which has allowed just one goal in the last 528 minutes, leads all league members and ranks fifth in Division I in goals against average (0.39).
ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION
The Gamecocks have trailed for just 85 seconds this season, falling behind 1-0 against UCF (Aug. 28) following a penalty kick. South Carolina has headed into halftime with the lead in eight games, and seven of its victories have come by at least two goals. The Gamecocks have scored in the opening 15 minutes of a match seven times in 2016.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Three of South Carolina’s last four game-winners have come in the final 10 minutes of the match. Forward Savannah McCaskill found the back of the net in the 87th minute on the road against Texas A&M (Sept. 29), and senior Sophie Groff tallied the game-winning goal in the 80th minute against Mississippi State on Oct. 6. This past Sunday, midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick gave the Gamecocks a 1-0 overtime victory over No. 17 Florida in the 103rd minute.
A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
First-year South Carolina goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski earned her second SEC honor of the season on Oct. 10 after being tabbed the league’s Defensive Player of the Week. The Douglasville, Ga., native, who has started 12 of South Carolina’s 15 matches in 2016, ranks first in the league in goals against average (0.40) and shutouts (7), and her 11 wins are the most by a freshman goalkeeper in school history. Six of her seven clean sheets have come in SEC play, and Arkansas’s goal in the 37th minute on Oct. 9 was the first one conceded by Krzeczowski in 372 minutes.
MCCASKILL’S MARCH TOWARDS HISTORY
Forward Savannah McCaskill is enjoying one of the most prolific seasons in school history. Her 11 goals are three away from the most by a Gamecock in one year, and the junior’s seven assists are tied for the eighth-highest mark in a season. McCaskill’s six game-winners equal the school’s single-season record, and her 29 points stand five away from Kayla Grimsley’s program-best 34 in 2010.
RECORD BOOK WATCH
Savannah McCaskill enters Thursday’s contest ranked in the top 10 on four lists in South Carolina’s record book. The forward sits in the top five in points (3rd, 73) goals (4th, 26) and assists (4th, 21), and her eight career game-winners are the seventh-best total in school history.
Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan, South Carolina’s all-time assists leader (34), is two game-winning assists short of the school record (12). The Anderson, S.C., native also ranks sixth on the all-time scoring list with 57 points. Sophie Groff tallied a pair of game-winners against Mississippi State (Oct. 6) and Arkansas (Oct. 9) to climb to seventh (20) on Carolina’s all-time goals list and into a tie for 10th (49) on the all-time scoring list. Groff’s nine career game-winners are tied for fifth all-time among Gamecocks.
South Carolina remains in Tennessee this weekend when it faces the Volunteers in Knoxville on Sun., Oct. 20. The match, which gets underway at 5 p.m. ET, can be seen on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN.