Nov. 24, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 1 seed South Carolina women’s soccer (21-1-1) hosts second-seed North Carolina (16-3-4) in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight on Fri., Nov. 25, at Stone Stadium. The match kicks off at 6 p.m. on SEC Network+ and features a top-10 tussle between the third-ranked Gamecocks and sixth-ranked Tar Heels. With a win, South Carolina will advance to the College Cup for the first time in program history.
Tickets (cash only) for Friday’s contest 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 are be available online Here and for purchase on the day of the match. The first 290 South Carolina students at the Whaley Street entrance will receive free admission to the match.
FROM THE COACH
“We’re excited to be playing during Thanksgiving break. It always means that you’ve done well on the season. We’re thrilled to be together as a team and soccer family. North Carolina is a premier college women’s soccer program. It should be a great matchup, and they’ve had another tremendous year. They’re full of athletes that can play soccer, and they put a lot of pressure on teams.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
SCOUTING NORTH CAROLINA
The Tar Heels tallied shutouts against Liberty (3-0, Nov. 12), Kansas (2-0, Nov. 18) and Clemson (1-0, Nov. 20) to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2013. UNC, which is unbeaten in 14 of its last 15 matches, has gone 6-2-4 away from home this season. The Tar Heels sport a mark of 6-1-4 against ranked opponents in 2016, including a 1-1-4 record when facing a top-25 team on the road. North Carolina, the only school to have been invited to all 35 NCAA Tournaments, boasts 21 NCAA Championships. The Tar Heels are 124-11-3 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
Freshman forward Bridgette Andrzejewski paces the Tar Heel attack with 20 points on nine goals and two assists. Junior midfielder Annie Kingman ranks first on the team in assists (7) and second in points (17), while freshman attacker Madison Schultz leads the Tar Heels with four game-winning tallies. Redshirt senior Lindsey Harris has played all 23 matches in net, notching nine shutouts on the year.
Friday marks the fourth all-time meeting between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels and the second time the two have met in the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina won two of the previous three meetings, including a 1-0 win at Chapel Hill in the 2014 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
LAST TIME OUT
Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick in the 69th minute lifted the Gamecocks to a 1-0 win over No. 4 seed BYU in the Sweet 16 last Saturday (Nov. 19) at Stone Stadium. South Carolina was awarded a penalty kick after junior forward Savannah McCaskill collected a pass and raced into the box, where she was immediately taken down. Drennan lined up for the spot kick and fired the ball into the right side of the net to put Carolina in front late in the match.
The Gamecocks withstood BYU’s bid for an equalizer down the stretch, starting in the 82nd minute when the Cougars were awarded a free kick near midfield. The ball in from the set piece floated dangerously into the box, but Carolina freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski alertly came off her line to grab it before BYU’s Nadia Gomes was able to attempt a header. In the final minute, Krzeczowski again denied a scoring chance from Gomes, snatching the ball at the near post to prevent a shot from the Cougar forward.
SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
This season marks South 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 Elite Eight in two of the last three years, sport a mark of 9-8-3 in NCAA Tournament matches. Carolina fell to Florida State 5-0 on the road in its first NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in 2014.
The Gamecocks are 7-2-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium, and Friday will mark the first time they host an Elite Eight match. Nine of its 10 NCAA Tournament appearances have come under coach Shelley Smith, and South Carolina is 11-1-1 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.
Seniors Chelsea Drennan and Sophie Groff enters Friday’s match with the most points (9) in NCAA Tournament play in program history. Groff’s four goals in the NCAA Tournament are the most ever by a Gamecock, while Drennan sports a school-best five assists in the postseason. Drennan and Groff’s five points each in the opening round against Alabama State (Nov. 11) marked the most in an NCAA Tournament match in school history.
GOOD FROM THE SPOT
Each of South Carolina’s last two victories have come by a penalty kick in the second half. Senior striker Sophie Groff converted from the spot in the 74th minute in round two against Colorado (Nov. 17) before senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick in the 69th minute pushed the Gamecocks past the Cougars. Drennan has been successful on all three of her penalty attempts in 2016, while Groff is also perfect after knocking in both of her shots from the spot.
NO GOALS FOR YOU
The Gamecocks have registered a shutout in each of their three NCAA Tournament matches, outscoring opponents 9-0 during that stretch. South Carolina’s 14 clean sheets in 2016 are one shy of the program single-season record of 15 that was set in 2009. The Gamecocks have limited an opponent to three or fewer shots on target 17 times this season.
A WINNING MENTALITY
With their second-round victory over No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 17, the Gamecocks set a new single-season program record with 20 wins in 2016. South Carolina’s 17 regular-season victories, 13 home wins and five triumphs over ranked opponents are also single-season school records.
SCORE SHEET STUFFERS
The Gamecocks boast single-season program records in points (150), goals (51) and assists (50) this year. Nationally, the team ranks seventh in points and goals and eighth in assists. 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 nine weeks. South Carolina, which earned the program’s highest ranking (No. 2) earlier this season, has spent the last seven 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 five by Soccer America (No. 4) and TopDrawerSoccer.com (No. 4).
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 41-5-1 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 148-54-12 overall at Stone Stadium, good for a .720 winning percentage. South Carolina won all of its matches at Stone Stadium during the regular season for the third time in school history this fall, and the Gamecocks have outscored opponents 37-3 at home in 2016.
REGULAR SEASON CLEAN SHEET
South Carolina, which sports the second-best winning percentage (.935) 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. Carolina is 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 0.38 goals against average overall currently leads the league and ranks third in NCAA Division I.
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 sports 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 20 of South Carolina’s 23 matches in 2016, ranks first in the league and sixth in Division I in goals against average (0.40). She also tops all conference goalkeepers in save percentage (.871) and shutouts (11). Her 11 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 Friday’s Elite Eight match at Stone Stadium will advance to the 2016 College Cup to face either No. 1 seed West Virginia or third-seed Duke. The NCAA Semifinals are set for Fri. Dec. 2, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif., with matches kicking off at 5 and 7:30 p.m.