Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+
Women's Soccer  . 

Defense Bolstered by Returning Veterans for Women's Soccer

by Brad Muller

You’ve heard the saying, “offense sells tickets and defense wins championships,” and that has certainly been the case for South Carolina women’s soccer over the years. The Gamecocks scored 39 goals last year while surrendering only 15. The Gamecocks are fortunate to not only return their top two goal scorers from last year, but on defense, they also have a pair of fifth-year seniors returning with co-captain defender Camryn Dixon and SEC Tournament MVP goalkeeper Heather Hinz opting to come back for another year.

“There were a lot of reasons I came back,” said Hinz, who led the SEC with 13 shutouts last year. “I love this team, and I love these girls so much. Having Cam come back is a massive reason why I came back. To have a team where I know they have my best interests at heart and that they love me and will be there for me, made it a no-brainer.

“I really want to continue to play at the next level, and I thought that with my strength level at the time and having a few injuries last season, it was the best decision to stay here and be in a family environment. I knew that this program would do whatever it takes to help me at the next level.”

“I thought about it all fall, and I had meetings with my teammates, and I talked with my coaches, and I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else,” said Dixon who graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communications and is seeking a masters in mass communications. “It was an easy decision. Part of taking my fifth year was to give myself another chance to grow before I try to play at the next level.”

Hinz’s older sister played professionally for several years in the National Women’s Soccer League, and that serves as inspiration for her to try to get there as well.

“My sister (Megan) is probably my biggest role model, and my parents are as well,” said Hinz, who graduated with a degree in sport and entertainment management and is working on a masters in coaching education. “My sister went through a lot of hardships in college. She didn’t get a lot of minutes in her last three years, but she had such a strong goal that she wanted to play pro, and she just did it. She grinded, went overseas, and came back and put herself in a position she needed to be in to make an NWSL team. I can’t describe how proud I am of her. It just motivates me every day. I’ve been given better resources here, so there’s no reason I can’t do it if she did it. She trains me all the time.”

Camryn Dixon 2022
“We’re confident that our backline can be just as good as last year.”
Camryn Dixon  . 

Dixon played alongside some outstanding defenders in the past, including All-SEC performer Jyllissa Harris, who graduated last year and is now playing in the NWSL, and she recognized that having all of this returning experience could help her and the program doing something great.

“Having myself and Heather back kind of puts everyone at ease,” Dixon said. “We’re confident that our backline can be just as good as last year.”
Despite some great statistics from last year, neither is sitting back and expecting it to be easy in 2023, and both are committed to improving their respective games.

“I’ve been here for four years and learned from a lot of upperclassmen along the way,” Dixon said. “I’m not the most vocal person, but I’ve been working on being more vocal on the field. The other thing is for me to take on more responsibility.”

“I can be better in my distribution,” Hinz said. “I need to be stronger in the box, so I’ve worked on my strength. It’s hard in the SEC. The competition is insane! Our strength is defense. Our team is committed to that. (Sophomore defender) Gracie (Falla) was in front of me taking on so many of the shots. She’s always diving across in front of me. All of our defenders are like that. Having so many people coming back on defense that are so willing to do so much work is a great thing. It’s helpful that I’ve been here and have that experience but having that core group is really crucial. We all buy into it.”

After winning the SEC Tournament last year and making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, the Gamecocks want more in 2023, starting with winning the SEC Regular Season Championship and a deeper run in the postseason.

“That’s the number goal all the time,” Hinz said. “Getting a taste of that last year, I want that again. You want to keep getting higher and higher in the tournament.”

“I really like our freshmen group,” Dixon said. “They’re really driven. It’s only going to add to the experienced group that we have.”

The Gamecocks open the 2023 regular season at rival Clemson on Thursday.