Oct. 27, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina women’s soccer became the first SEC team to notch an undefeated regular season after downing Ole Miss 2-0 Thursday night at Stone Stadium on Senior Night. First-half goals from strikers Savannah McCaskill and Sophie Groff secured the victory for the No. 2 Gamecocks, who finish the regular season at 17-0-1 (11-0-0 SEC). Ole Miss fell to 9-10-0 overall and 4-7-0 in SEC play following the loss.
Thursday’s result capped off a dominant run in SEC play for Carolina, which joined Florida (2008) as the only other team in conference history to boast an 11-0-0 league mark. The Gamecocks never trailed against a conference opponent, and South Carolina concluded the regular season as the only unbeaten team in Division I. The victory over the Rebels also extended Carolina’s program-record winning streak to 17 matches.
The Gamecock defense continued its impressive form Thursday, holding the Rebels to one shot on target. Eight of Ole Miss’s 10 shots came in the second half, and Carolina finished the match with 13 attempts and seven shots on frame. The Gamecocks boasted seven corners for the game, six of which came in the opening 45 minutes.
McCaskill opened the scoring for the Gamecocks in historic fashion, netting her 14th goal of the season in the 18th minute to reach a program-best 35 points in one year. The goal was set up by freshman defender Tatumn Milazzo, who intercepted a pass off an Ole Miss throw-in and volleyed a through ball to McCaskill. The forward gathered the pass and raced into the right side of the box before firing a shot with the outside of her foot into the left side of the net past Rebel keeper Marnie Merritt. Milazzo’s assist gave the Orland Park, Ill., native her first career point for the Gamecocks.
Carolina doubled its advantage less than two minutes later when McCaskill fought off a defender down the sideline and delivered a cross to Groff at the top of the box. Her pass hit the senior forward in stride, and Groff maneuvered around Merritt and slotted home the empty net goal to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute.
The Gamecocks tested the Ole Miss defense early, and McCaskill nearly put Carolina on the board in the second minute when her attempt from inside the box dinged off the post. In the 33rd minute, Groff used a nice move to elude the Rebel defense and slip a pass to McCaskill, whose flick shot at the near post missed wide right.
Carolina saw two scoring opportunities in the second half, starting in the 54th minute when senior forward Daija Griffin sent in a cross from the right side. Her pass deflected off an Ole Miss defender and created a dangerous loose ball in the box. McCaskill raced to the ball, but the Rebels were able to clear the danger away. In the 73rd minute, McCaskill’s free kick from outside of the box found freshman defender Kailey Mattison, who was unable to get enough on her clean header to threaten goal.
South Carolina freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski needed just one save to pick up her ninth shutout of the year and improve to 14-0-1. Merritt and redshirt junior Madi Killeen split time in net for the Rebels, who finished the game with five saves. With the win, the Gamecocks moved to 10-5-3 all-time against Ole Miss.
Prior to the match, all nine of South Carolina’s seniors were honored. The group, which has helped the Gamecocks reach the NCAA Tournament in each of its first three years, has been a part of 57 regular-season victories, the most in a four-year span in school history.
“It doesn’t hit us sometimes when you’re in the middle of it. I guess I’ll probably enjoy it when I step back a little bit, but we’re always driven and ready for the next thing. I know this team wants to achieve more goals, and we’re in the mindset of what we can do next.” — South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Forward Sophie Groff’s tally in the 18th minute extended Carolina’s advantage to two and put the Gamecocks in firm control midway through the first half. All six of Groff’s goals this season have come in conference play.
The Gamecocks held the Rebels to just one attempt on target in Thursday’s win. South Carolina allowed just three goals in SEC play this year.
- South Carolina’s 17 regular-season wins are the most in school history.
- The Gamecocks become the third SEC school to boast an undefeated mark in league play, joining Florida and Vanderbilt.
- Thursday’s victory gives Carolina its second undefeated home season in program history. The Gamecocks boasted a mark of 11-0-0 at Stone Stadium in 2013.
- In addition to breaking South Carolina’s single-season point total, junior forward Savannah McCaskill also equaled the most goals (14) in one year by a Gamecock.
South Carolina opens play at the SEC Tournament on 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 seeds, with kickoff on Wednesday slated for 6 p.m. ET. The contest can be seen on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN.