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Oct. 30, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – One week after capturing the 2016 SEC Regular-Season Title, South Carolina women’s soccer dominated the league’s postseason awards that were released Sunday afternoon. Junior forward Savannah McCaskill collected Offensive Player of the Year honors, and senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz was tabbed the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. South Carolina’s Shelley Smith grabbed Coach of the Year accolades to round out the major awards for the No. 2 Gamecocks, who tied Auburn for the most all-conference honors.

McCaskill and Kurtz headlined the group of five Gamecocks who landed on the All-SEC First Team. Joining the pair of standouts were seniors Chelsea Drennan and Paige Bendell and freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski, who also earned a spot on the league’s All-Freshman team. Sophie Groff marked the other Gamecock to be recognized, as the senior striker claimed All-SEC Second Team laurels.

Thirty-two players have now grabbed All-SEC honors under Smith, while Kurtz becomes the sixth Gamecock to earn a Player of the Year honor. McCaskill was tabbed the league’s Freshman of the Year in 2014.

Sunday’s announcement marked the third Coach of the Year honor for Smith, who guided the Gamecocks to the second 11-0-0 conference mark in SEC history this season. She previously garnered the accolade in 2009 before Carolina’s SEC Tournament Championship that year, and she won the award two seasons later following the program’s 2011 SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks, the lone unbeaten team (17-0-1) in Division I, never trailed in SEC play this year, outscoring opponents 22-3 during that stretch. South Carolina’s 17 regular-season wins this fall are the most in school history, and the team’s No. 2 NSCAA ranking and No. 3 RPI standing are both its highest ever.

McCaskill’s honor comes on the heels of a historic regular season that saw the junior set the program’s single-year record with 36 points. The Chapin, S.C., native, led the league in points, goals (14) and game-winners (8), and her eight assists ranked fourth among conference players. McCaskill’s eight game-winning tallies are the most in one season by a Gamecock, and the striker heads into the postseason with four multi-goal matches in 2016. She is the second South Carolina player to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors, joining Kayla Grimsley (2010, 2011).

Kurtz, the third Gamecock to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, played all 1,008 minutes in conference action this season, anchoring a back line that conceded just three goals in 11 league contests. Carolina boasted eight shutouts in SEC play and held an opponent to three shots or less nine times. Kurtz contributed on the offensive end as well, notching four assists and one goal. Her six points are tied for the most among Gamecock defenders.

Drennan, Carolina’s all-time assists leaders, sports career highs in points (20) and goals (8) in her senior season. The Gamecock captain netted two game-winners during the regular season, including a penalty kick in overtime against No. 17 Florida on Oct. 16. Her eight assists match McCaskill for the team lead, and the Anderson, S.C., native’s 20 points rank 10th in the conference.

Bendell started all 18 regular-season matches for the Gamecocks, who are first in the SEC and fifth nationally in goals against average (0.38). South Carolina allowed just one goal on the road in league play, and Bendell’s three goals this fall are the most for a Gamecock defender.

Krzeczowski has enjoyed a tremendous first season at Carolina, leading the SEC in goals against average (0.39), save percentage (.867) and shutouts (9). Her nine clean sheets and 14 victories are the most be a freshman keeper in program history, and the Douglasville, Ga., native will head into the postseason needing one shutout to become the fourth Gamecock to notch a double-digit total in one year.

Groff, who ranks eighth on South Carolina’s all-time scoring list with 53 points, was at her best in league play this season. All six of her goals in 2016 have come against conference opponents, and her 15 points in SEC play ranked fifth. The senior attacker boasted three game-winners in the regular season, tallying the decisive goal against Kentucky (Sept. 25), Mississippi State (Oct. 6) and No. 11 Arkansas (Oct. 9).

The Gamecocks open postseason play this Wednesday (Nov. 2) in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Ala. Top-seeded Carolina will face the winner of Monday’s match between eighth-seeded Texas A&M and the No. 9 seed Alabama, with Wednesday’s kickoff set for 6 p.m. ET. The contest will air on SEC Network.

SEC Postseason Awards
Coach of the Year:
Shelley Smith (South Carolina)
Offensive Player of the Year: Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kaleigh Kurtz (South Carolina)
Freshman of the Year: Sarah Luebbert (Missouri)
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Casie Ramsier (Auburn)

First Team All-SEC
Forward Kristen Dodson (Auburn)
Forward Savannah Jordan (Florida)
Forward Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina)
Forward Hannah Wilkinson (Tennessee)
Midfielder Claire Kelley (Arkansas)
Midfielder Casie Ramsier (Auburn)
Midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard (Florida)
Midfielder Chelsea Drennan (South Carolina)
Defender Kiana Clarke (Auburn)
Defender Gabby Seiler (Florida)
Defender Paige Bendell (South Carolina)
Defender Kaleigh Kurtz (South Carolina)
Goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski (South Carolina)
At Large: Marion Crowder (Georgia)
At Large: Melanie Donaldson (Missouri)

Second Team All-SEC
Forward Mallory Eubanks (Mississippi State)
Forward Sarah Luebbert (Missouri)
Forward Sophie Groff (South Carolina)
Forward Haley Pounds (Texas A&M)
Midfielder Brooke Ramsier (Auburn)
Midfielder Summer Clarke (LSU)
Midfielder Gretchen Harknett (Ole Miss)
Midfielder Kaitlyn Clark (Missouri)
Midfielder Ryle O’Keefe (Tennessee)
Defender Jessi Hartzler (Arkansas)
Defender Carolina Waters (Georgia)
Defender Lauren Selaiden (Missouri)
Goalkeeper Sarah Le Beau (Auburn)
Goalkeeper Danielle Rice (Texas A&M)
At Large: Kristen Cardano (Florida)
At Large: Cristina DeZeeuw (Vanderbilt)

All-Freshman Team
Stefani Doyle (Arkansas)
Kayla McKeon (Arkansas)
Bri Folds (Auburn)
Karli Gutsche (Auburn)
Julia Lister (Florida)
Marissa Bosco (Kentucky)
Evangeline Soucie (Kentucky)
Sarah Luebbert (Missouri)
Mikayla Krzeczowski (South Carolina)
Maya Neal (Tennessee)
Grace Piper (Texas A&M)
Grace Jackson (Vanderbilt)