Gamecocks Top No. 17 Florida 1-0 To Capture Second-Straight SEC Title
Oct. 26, 2017
No. 3 Women’s Soccer at Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 3 South Carolina women’s soccer topped No. 17 Florida 1-0 to capture its second-straight SEC Regular-Season Title Thursday night at Dizney Stadium. Sophomore attacker Elexa Bahr netted the game-winning tally in the 80th minute for the Gamecocks, who posted an unbeaten mark (9-0-1) in league play for the second-consecutive year.
The victory over the Gators handed Carolina a final regular-season mark of 15-1-1 and pushed its unbeaten streak to 14 matches. The Gamecocks outscored opponents 17-3 in league play and recorded eight shutouts in their 10 conference matches.
Bahr’s game-winner was set up by Carolina seniors Lindsey Lane and Savannah McCaskill. Lane stole the ball away from a Florida midfielder and found McCaskill near the top of the attacking third. McCaskill alertly slipped the ball to Bahr, who charged into the box and created some space before smashing it home from 15 yards out.
Florida produced a late bid for an equalizer in the 90th minute after sending in a dangerous cross from the right side. The ball into the box found Lais Araujo near the far post, and the Gator midfielder ripped a well-hit shot that was stopped by Carolina goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski. Krzeczowski, who ended the night with two saves, quickly secured the ball after it fell to the ground on a deflection off her chest.
Carolina pressed for a goal in the beginning stages of the second half and earned a free kick from 20 yards out in the 48th minute when McCaskill was fouled near the top of the box. The senior striker attempted the ensuing free kick, sending in a bending effort that missed right. Less than 60 seconds later, Gamecock senior forward Meaghan Carrigan intercepted a poor clearance by the Gators and raced into the box from the right side. The Greenville, S.C., native tried to find McCaskill, but her pass was cut off by a Florida defender and the danger was cleared.
Thursday’s match opened with a defensive battle before the Gamecocks began to see chances midway through the first half. McCaskill was involved in a pair of scoring opportunities, starting in the 19th minute when she split a pair of defenders and fired a shot from inside the box that missed left. Two minutes later, Gamecock midfielder Dominique Babbitt nearly opened the scoring after Carolina was awarded a corner kick. The ball into the box eventually fell to Babbitt, and the senior ripped a shot that went wide right.
Carolina again tested the Florida back line in the 24th minute when Lauren Chang took the ball away near the top of the box. The freshman midfielder, one of two Gamecocks to record a pair of shots in the first period, took one dribble before rifling a low shot that whizzed past the right post. Carolina continued to take advantage of mistakes by the Gator defense two minutes later, as McCaskill stole the ball in the box and poked a shot that missed wide left.
The Gamecocks saw their final quality first-half opportunity in the 44th minute off another corner kick. Chang’s ball into the box found Fisk, who elevated over two defenders before sending in a header that hit off the crossbar.
Carolina boasted a 9-5 shot advantage for the game and attempted all six of the match’s corner kicks. Bahr and Chang accounted for the Gamecocks’ two attempts on frame in the contest.
With the win, Carolina improved to 4-2 in their last six games against the Gators. Ten of the last 11 matches between the two have been decided by one goal, and Thursday marked the second time in the last two years the Gamecocks netted a game-winner against Florida in the final 10 minutes of the match.
“Our girls battled all night, and everyone played the role they needed to — I couldn’t be more proud of this team. Elexa (Bahr) came up huge, and she has done that time-and-time again this year. Someone had to break through, and I thought we had more chances on the night. It’s crazy to be here with how tough this league is. I’m amazed and very proud of this group — they fight for each other, and to have a championship two years in a row is incredible.” — South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Elexa Bahr’s goal in the 80th minute was all Carolina needed in its title-clinching victory over the Gators. The sophomore attacker’s seven tallies in 2017 are tied with Savannah McCaskill for the team lead.
The Gamecocks capped off their defensive clinic in SEC play with another solid performance. Florida was held to five shots for the game and just two attempts on goal. Carolina did not allow more than three shots on target in any conference game this season.
- Thursday’s victory secured the fourth SEC Championship for the Gamecocks. Carolina won the 2009 SEC Tournament before finishing atop the conference standings in 2011, 2016 and 2017.
- Carolina is the fifth team in league history to win back-to SEC Regular-Season Titles. The Gamecocks are the first program to accomplish the feat since Texas A&M won the 2013 and 2014 conference championships.
- This year marks the second time Carolina clinched an SEC Regular-Season Championship in Gainesville. The Gamecocks downed Florida 2-1 in 2011 to secure their first regular-season title.
- The Gamecocks own a mark of 20-0-1 in league contests since 2016. Carolina will head into next year on a 23-match unbeaten streak in conference action in a stretch that dates back to 2015.
The top-seeded Gamecocks open play at the 2017 SEC Soccer Championship in Orange Beach, Ala., on Tue., Oct. 31. Carolina’s quarterfinal match, which kicks off at 6 p.m. ET, will be against either eighth-seeded Arkansas or ninth-seeded Ole Miss.