Nov. 18, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 1 seed South Carolina women’s soccer (20-1-1) is set to host fourth-seed BYU (18-2-1) in the third round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Sat., Nov. 19, at Stone Stadium. This weekend’s match, which kicks off at 7 p.m. on SEC Network+, features a top-five battle between the third-ranked Gamecocks and fourth-ranked Cougars. With a win over BYU, Carolina will advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years.
Tickets (cash only) are $8 for adults and $5 for students and children (17 and under). Fans can call the ticket office at 1-800-4SC-FANS, and tickets will be available for purchase on the day of the match. The first 440 South Carolina students will receive free admission at the Whaley Street entrance.
FROM THE COACH
“We’re very excited for this opportunity. This team has shown all year that they can find a way to win and play against the best. BYU is a tremendous team, and they have one of the most dangerous attacks you can find in college soccer. We’re known most for our defense, so it’s going to be a great matchup. Any opponent in these rounds is going to be difficult. We have to be very solid defensively and take advantage of any opportunity they give us.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
The Cougars, who enter this weekend on a seven-match winning streak, advanced to the NCAA Tournament third round following wins over UNLV (2-0, Nov. 11) and Oklahoma (2-1, Nov. 17). BYU’s victory over the Sooners came at Stone Stadium Thursday afternoon behind goals from strikers Ashley Hatch and Michele Vasconcelos. The Cougars are 10-1-0 away from home this season, and Saturday will be their fourth match against a ranked opponent in 2016. BYU earned road victories over No. 5 Penn State (3-2, Aug. 26) and No. 19 Ohio State (3-0, Sept. 12) before falling to No. 25 Pepperdine (1-0, Oct. 8). This season marks the 18th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Cougars, who have reached the quarterfinals of the event twice.
Vasconcelos and Hatch have enjoyed productive seasons in the attack, combining for 35 points and 19 assists. Both Cougars boast a team-high six game-winners on the year, while junior striker Nadia Gomes ranks second on the team in assists (12) and third in points (24). Junior Hannah Clark has started 19 matches in net for BYU, which ranks eighth in Division I in goals against average (0.47). Offensively, the Cougars boast the most assists (60) and points (176) nationally, and their 58 total goals are the third-best total. Saturday will mark the first meeting between the Gamecocks and BYU.
LAST TIME OUT
Senior striker Sophie Groff converted a penalty kick in the 74th minute to lift Carolina to a 1-0 win over 20th-ranked Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night at Stone Stadium. The Grapevine, Texas, native’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. After seeing Tompkins move right, the senior calmly slipped the ball into the left side of the net to secure the victory.
Carolina finished the match with a 15-9 shot advantage and held the Buffaloes to just two shots on goal in the second half. Freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski totaled five saves, including a crucial stop in the 55th minute when Colorado’s Emily Bruder created a one-on-one opportunity in the attacking third.
SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
This season marks Carolina’s 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the ninth time in the last 10 years it has reached the event. The Gamecocks, who have advanced to the third round in two of the last three years, sport a mark of 8-8-3 in NCAA Tournament matches, including a 1-1 record in round three. Carolina fell to Wake Forest 1-0 at Stone Stadium in the third round in 2009, and it earned a 1-0 win over North Carolina in 2014 to advance to the program’s first NCAA Quarterfinal appearance.
The Gamecocks are 6-2-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and Saturday will mark the second time they host a third-round match. Nine of its 10 NCAA Tournament appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith, and Carolina is 10-1-1 against teams that qualified for the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
WE’RE NUMBER 1
South Carolina earned the program’s first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed when the 64-team field was announced during the event’s selection show. This season marks the third time the Gamecocks will head into the NCAA Tournament with a national seed. Carolina was a No. 2 seed in 2009 and a No. 3 seed for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
A WINNING MENTALITY
With Thursday’s victory over the Buffaloes, the Gamecocks set a new single-season program record with 20 wins in 2016. Carolina’s 17 regular-season victories, 12 home wins and four triumphs over ranked opponents are also school records.
Carolina senior attacker Sophie Groff enters Saturday’s match with the most points (9) in NCAA Tournament play in program history. The forward boasts career totals of four goals and one assist during the NCAA postseason, with three of those tallies coming this year. Her five points (2G, 1A) in Carolina’s opening round against Alabama State (Nov. 11) equaled the highest single-match total in school history, and her four total goals in the NCAA Tournament are the most ever by a Gamecock.
SMITH TALLIES WIN NO. 200 AT CAROLINA
The Gamecocks’ win over Alabama State in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament marked the 200th victory at South Carolina for Shelley Smith, the program’s winningest coach. The 16th-year head coach, who spent four seasons at Rhode Island before coming to Carolina in 2001, has led the Gamecocks to double-digit wins 12 times during her tenure.
SCORE SHEET STUFFERS
The Gamecocks boast single-season program records in points (150) and assists (50) this year. Carolina’s 50 goals this fall equal the school’s single-year record (50, 1998), and four Gamecocks boast at least five tallies in 2016. Nationally, the team ranks sixth in assists, ninth in points and 11th in goals. Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan and junior striker Savannah McCaskill both sit two assists shy of the school’s single-season record with 11 for the year.
The Gamecocks have been ranked in the top five of the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll for the last eight weeks. Carolina, which earned the program’s highest ranking (No. 2) earlier this season, has spent the last six weeks ranked in the top three, and it has been in the poll’s top 10 since Sept. 20. The Gamecocks are also currently listed in the top 10 by Soccer America (No. 4) and TopDrawerSoccer.com (No. 6).
The SEC Champion Gamecocks dominated the league’s postseason awards, earning three major accolades to go along with seven all-conference honors. Shelley Smith was tabbed the league’s Coach of the Year, while junior forward Savannah McCaskill (Offensive Player of the Year) and senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz (Defensive Player of the Year) were also honored. Smith’s accolade marked her third Coach of the Year award, and McCaskill, the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, became the second player in school history to garner Offensive Player of the Year honors. Kurtz is the third Gamecock to be named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
South Carolina’s five First-Team All-SEC honorees (McCaskill, Kurtz, midfielder Chelsea Drennan, defender Paige Bendell, goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski) led the league and were the most in one year in school history. Senior striker Sophie Groff was also recognized, as she was named to the Second Team All-SEC. In addition to her First-Team honors, Krzeczowski was selected to the Freshman All-SEC squad.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
South Carolina’s 2-0 victory over Tennessee on Oct. 23 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 did not trail in conference play this season, outscored league opponents 22-3 during the regular season. South Carolina became the third school in league history to boast an undefeated conference record following its 2-0 win over Ole Miss (Oct. 27). With the victory, the Gamecocks matched Florida’s 11-0-0 league record in 2008 for the top SEC mark in conference history.
Since 2013, South Carolina boasts a record of 40-5-1 in matches played at “The Graveyard”. The Gamecocks recorded the program’s first undefeated home season (11-0-0) in 2013, and they have gone 147-54-12 overall at Stone Stadium, good for a .718 winning percentage. Carolina, which won all of its matches at Stone Stadium during the regular season for the third time in school history, has outscored opponents 36-3 at home in 2016.
REGULAR SEASON CLEAN SHEET
South Carolina, which sports the second-best winning percentage (.932) nationally, was the only team to finish the regular season unbeaten among the 334 NCAA Division I schools. The Gamecocks went undefeated (6-0-1) in non-conference play for the first time since 2013, and they finished the regular season unbeaten on the road (6-0-1) for just the second time in program history. The Gamecocks are the only SEC school ever to finish the regular season undefeated, non-conference and conference matches included.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
South Carolina’s defense paved the way to its 2016 SEC Regular-Season Title. The Gamecocks boasted shutouts in eight of their 11 league matches, allowing just one goal on the road in conference action. Carolina conceded just three goals overall in league play, and the Gamecocks ranked first in the SEC in goals allowed (7) and shutouts (11). Their 0.40 goals against average currently leads the league and ranks fourth in NCAA Division I. South Carolina, which sits two shutouts shy of the school’s single-season record (15), has limited an opponent to three or fewer shots on goal 16 times this season.
SOUTH CAROLINA AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS
South Carolina sports an all-time mark of 26-56-12 against ranked opponents. The Gamecocks have gone 10-6-2 against teams ranked in the top 20 over the last four seasons, and they have earned four victories over top-25 foes in 2016, topping No. 6 Clemson (Sept. 3), No. 11 Arkansas (Oct. 9), No. 17 Florida (Oct. 16) and No. 20 Colorado (Nov. 17). Carolina has won two of its last three matches against top-five opponents with victories over No. 4 Texas A&M (Sept. 15, 2015) and No. 5 Florida (Oct. 16, 2014).
A STREAK TO REMEMBER
South Carolina’s loss to No. 15 Florida on Nov. 2 snapped the best stretch in program history. The Gamecocks boasted the longest winning streak (18) and longest unbeaten streak (19) 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. South Carolina’s current six-match winning streak in true road games is its longest ever.
ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION
The Gamecocks trailed for just 85 seconds during the regular season, falling behind 1-0 against UCF (Aug. 28) following a penalty kick. South Carolina has headed into halftime with the lead in 10 games this year, and 11 of its victories have come by at least two goals. The Gamecocks have scored in the opening 15 minutes of a match 10 times in 2016.
MCCASKILL’S RECORD-SETTING PACE
Junior Savannah McCaskill’s first of two tallies in the SEC quarterfinals against Texas A&M (Nov. 2) gave the striker 15 goals in 2016, the most in one season by a Gamecock. The Chapin, S.C., native boasts 17 goals on the year, and her 45 points are also a program single-season record. She boasts five multi-goal games this season, and her 10 game-winners, the second-best total in Division I, are the most in one year in school history. McCaskill’s 11 assists this year mark the third-best single-year total by a Gamecock, and the forward ranks third in total points and sixth in total goals in Division I.
PLAYING FOR A CROWD
South Carolina led Division I in home attendance during the regular season, averaging 3,173 fans per match at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks, who have ranked in the top 10 in average home attendance in each of the last three years, are currently second in total attendance (31,734) among Division I schools.
A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
First-year goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski, who has started 19 of South Carolina’s 22 matches in 2016, ranks first in the league and eighth in Division I in goals against average (0.42). She also tops all conference goalkeepers in save percentage (.864) and shutouts (10). Her 10 clean sheets are the most by a freshman goalkeeper in school history and good for the third-most in one season by a Gamecock. The Douglasville, Ga., native’s goals against average also ranks second among true freshmen in Division I.
The winner of Saturday’s match between Carolina and BYU will advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The time and opponent of the contest will be determined at the conclusion of this weekend, and the match will take place at Stone Stadium should the Gamecocks defeat the Cougars.