Nov. 17, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Senior striker Sophie Groff converted a penalty kick in the 74th minute to lift No. 1 seed South Carolina women’s soccer to a 1-0 win over 20th-ranked Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night at Stone Stadium. The victory gave the No. 3 ranked Gamecocks (20-1-1) their most wins in a season ever and advanced them to the NCAA Tournament third round for the third time in school history. Colorado ends its 2016 campaign at 15-6-1 following the loss.
Groff’s game-winner came after she was taken down in the box trying to collect a cross from senior forward Daija Griffin from the right side. Colorado goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins charged into Groff and knocked her down to set up the ensuing attempt from 12 yards out. Groff, who opened the NCAA Tournament with a multi-goal match last Friday, saw Tompkins dive right and calmly slipped the ball into the left side of the net. The goal marked her second successful penalty kick of the season.
Carolina, which put six shots on frame Thursday, nearly opened the scoring on two separate occasions in the first half. In the 17th minute, senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s corner kick located senior center back Paige Bendell deep inside the box. Bendell drilled a header towards net that deflected off Groff before being cleared off the line by a Colorado defender. The Gamecocks almost broke through in the 35th minute when Griffin rifled a shot from the left side of the box that was knocked away by Tompkins. The deflection created a dangerous loose ball, and Tompkins was able to punch it away again before a charging Groff could tap it in.
The Gamecocks’ bid for a goal fell just short again in the 50th minute when junior forward Savannah McCaskill raced to the ball and sent a diving cross into the box. Her delivery found Drennan, who one-timed a shot that missed just left. Less than 10 minutes after Groff’s goal, McCaskill nearly doubled the advantage after sending a header wide left following a Carolina corner kick.
Colorado’s best chance of the night came in the 55th minute when Buffalo forward Emily Bruder evaded the defense and found herself one-on-one with Gamecock goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski. Krzeczowski charged off her line and used her leg to turn the shot away before Carolina center back Kaleigh Kurtz cleared the danger.
The Gamecocks finished the match with a 15-9 shot advantage and attempted five corner kicks. Colorado put five attempts on target and totaled four corner kicks throughout the contest. Krzeczowski tallied five saves to earn her 10th shutout of the year and improve to 17-1-1 in 2016.
“I’m so proud of this team and what they’ve done all year. I keep saying, you don’t really understand what you’ve done until you can reflect upon it. We’re all so focused on the run and meeting our own expectations of doing well. This team has shown all year (that) they find a way to win and they can play against the best.” — South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Senior forward Sophie Groff clinched the victory for the Gamecocks with her penalty kick in the 74th minute. The tally was the 10th career game-winning goal for the Grapevine, Texas, native.
The Gamecocks limited the Buffaloes to just two shots on goal in the second half. Only four Colorado players registered a shot on the night.
- South Carolina has reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three years.
- Senior striker Sophie Groff’s nine career points (4G, 1A) in NCAA Tournament play are the most by a Gamecock ever.
- The Gamecocks are 4-of-5 on penalty attempts this season. Groff and senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan have both made two penalty shots on the year.
- South Carolina’s 13 shutouts this fall are two shy of the program’s single-season record. The Gamecocks have allowed just three goals at home in 2016.
South Carolina faces No. 4 seed BYU in NCAA Tournament third round action Saturday at Stone Stadium. The fourth-ranked Cougars downed 25th-ranked Oklahoma 2-1 in Columbia earlier Thursday. Kickoff this weekend is slated for 7 p.m. ET.