Oct. 26, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Fresh off its SEC Championship, No. 2 South Carolina women’s soccer (16-0-1, 10-0-0 SEC) rounds out the regular season Thu., Oct. 27, when it plays host to Ole Miss (9-9-0, 4-6-0 SEC). Kickoff at Stone Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the match will air on SEC Network.
It will be Senior Night for the team, which will honor nine Gamecocks prior to the game. A win against the Rebels will extend South Carolina’s program-record 16-game winning streak and give the Gamecocks their first unbeaten regular season.
FROM THE COACH
“I’m always impressed with how these players have embraced every day and how they come out and be competitive. They are a determined group. They want to complete the season and stay on top as we head into postseason play. They are not satisfied with just this championship, and they want to keep going. It’s been fun to watch, and they’re a joy to coach.”ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
SCOUTING OLE MISS
The Rebels enter Thursday’s match on a two-game losing streak after falling to Georgia (Oct. 20) and Vanderbilt (Oct. 23) last week. Ole Miss, which sports an overall mark of 9-9-0 and a 4-6-0 SEC record, has gone 3-4-0 on the road this season. Thursday will mark the third contest against a top-25 opponent in 2016 for the Rebels, who fell to No. 15 Arkansas (Sept. 25) and No. 16 Florida (Oct. 9).
Senior forward Addie Forbus leads the Ole Miss attack, boasting team highs in points (20) and goals (8). Sophomore midfielder CeCe Kizer, the other Rebel with double-digit points in 2016, has tallied a team-best six assists to go along with five goals. Redshirt sophomore Marnie Merritt has started all 18 matches in net for Ole Miss, which ranks 12th in the SEC in goals against average (1.65). The Rebels’ 24 goals are the 10th-best mark in the conference.
South Carolina is 9-5-3 all-time against the Rebels in a series that dates back to 1996. The Gamecocks, who have won six of the last nine matches in the series, are 5-3-1 when playing Ole Miss at home.
LAST TIME OUT
Behind a pair of second-half goals from junior forward Savannah McCaskill, South Carolina topped Tennessee 2-0 this past Sunday to secure the SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks opened the scoring in the 48th minute when junior defender Anna Conklin sent a cross into the box to McCaskill, who headed home a goal to put Carolina in front. The advantage grew to two when McCaskill beat the Tennessee keeper one-on-one in the box after receiving a beautiful through ball from senior forward Sophie Groff.
McCaskill’s performance marked her fourth multi-goal match of the season and the seventh time the striker has scored at least twice in a game. Freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski collected four saves to earn her eighth shutout and move to 13-0-1 on the year.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
South Carolina’s victory over the Volunteers last Sunday gave the Gamecocks their third SEC Championship. Carolina won the 2009 SEC Tournament before capturing the league’s regular-season title in 2011. The Gamecocks, who have not trailed in conference play this season, have outscored league opponents 20-3 in 2016. With a win over the Rebels, South Carolina would become the third school in league history to boast an undefeated conference record, and the Gamecocks would match Florida’s 11-0-0 league record in 2008, the top mark in conference history.
The Gamecocks remained at No. 2 in Tuesday’s NSCAA Top-25 Poll, receiving four first-place votes. South Carolina also stayed at No. 3 in this week’s NCAA soccer RPI Rankings. Both positions are the best in program history, and the Gamecocks are listed at No. 2 in the current TopDrawerSoccer.com and Soccer America polls.
2016 CLEAN SHEET
South Carolina, which sports the top winning percentage (.971) nationally, is the only remaining unbeaten team among the 334 NCAA Division I schools. The Gamecocks went unbeaten (6-0-1) in non-conference play for the first time since 2013, and they finished the regular season undefeated on the road (6-0-1) for just the second time in program history. At 16-0-1, Carolina is off to its best start ever.
THEY WILL BE MISSED
This year’s senior class has enjoyed one of the best four-year stretches in program history. Carolina’s 56 regular-season victories since 2013 are tied for the most in a four-year period, and the Gamecocks have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years, notching double-digit wins each season. South Carolina, which reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals for the first time ever in 2014, has notched nine wins over ranked opponents over the last four seasons.
A STREAK TO REMEMBER
The Gamecocks currently boast the longest winning streak (16) and longest unbeaten streak (17) in school history. Both streaks bested the previous program records that were set in 2009 when South Carolina won 11-straight matches and began the season 13-0-1. With six-straight road victories, the Gamecocks also sport the longest road winning streak in program history.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
South Carolina’s defense paved the way to its 2016 SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks have boasted shutouts in seven of their 10 league matches, allowing just one goal on the road in conference action. Carolina has conceded just three goals overall in league play, and the Gamecocks rank first in the SEC in goals allowed (7) and shutouts (10). Their 0.40 goals against average also leads the league and ranks fifth in NCAA Division I.
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
Four of South Carolina’s last six game-winners have come in the final 10 minutes of the match. Senior forward Daija Griffin tallied the overtime winner in the 97th minute against Vanderbilt (Oct. 20) last week, and midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick gave the Gamecocks a 1-0 overtime victory over then-No. 17 Florida (Oct. 16) in the 103rd minute. Attacker 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.
MCCASKILL’S MARCH TOWARDS HISTORY
Forward Savannah McCaskill is enjoying one of the most prolific seasons in school history. Her 13 goals and 33 points are each one 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 seven game-winners mark the most ever in a season in program history.
RECORD BOOK WATCH
Savannah McCaskill enters Thursday’s contest ranked in the career top 10 on four lists in South Carolina’s record book. The forward sits in the top five in points (3rd, 77), goals (4th, 28) and assists (4th, 21), and her nine career game-winners are tied for the fifth-best total in school history.
Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan, South Carolina’s all-time assists leader (37), is one game-winning assist short of the school record (12). The Anderson, S.C., native is also tied for fifth on the all-time scoring list with 59 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 her 51 points put her at 10th on the all-time points list. Groff’s nine career game-winners are tied for fifth all-time among Gamecocks.
South Carolina opens play at the SEC Tournament next Wednesday (Nov. 2) at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Ala. The top-seeded Gamecocks will face the winner of Monday’s match between the No. 8 and 9 seed, with kickoff on Wednesday slated for 6 p.m. ET. The contest can be seen on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN.