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Shelley Smith

Shelley Smith

STORY: Smith Family Reflects on Climb to the Top // Dancing Their Way to History (2017 Season Recap)

Shelley Smith wrapped up her 24th season this past fall as the head coach of South Carolina Women’s Soccer, owning a record of 306-136-60 at the helm of the Gamecocks.

In the 2022 season, the Gamecocks earned their sixth SEC Championship under Smith, and made its 10th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament having reached the Sweet 16 for the seventh time. Finishing 15-4-5, South Carolina tallied their 18th winning season with Smith as head coach and the 10th consecutive year with 12+ wins. The Gamecocks earned their 16th All-American under Smith (Jyllissa Harris), finished 9th in the final United Soccer Coaches poll, and notched 14 shutouts – the most in the conference and tied for third in the country.

In a unique year, Smith led the Gamecocks to a record of 11-5-0 (6-2-0 SEC) during the 2020-21 season, a season that was split into a fall and a spring portion for the first time in history. Smith and the Gamecocks nearly added another SEC trophy to their collection, but fell just one match short in the regular season finale on the road. Carolina enjoyed a pair of First Team All-SEC honors in the form of Anna Patten and Jyllissa Harris and totaled five conference honors after the fall portion of the season including the Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year in Lauren Chang. Patten was also named the program’s 15th All-American under Smith’s tutelage, earning Third Team honors by the United Soccer Coaches. Smith’s program reached it’s eighth-straight NCAA Tournament after the spring portion of the season and reached the NCAA Second Round for the fifth-straight time. Smith’s program was led throughout the year by a stellar freshman class that combined to score 16 of the team’s 30 goals during the season that will propel the team to success with nearly the entire spring roster set to return in the fall of 2021 due to the extra year of eligibility being awarded by the NCAA.

Other notable moments during the 2020-21 season includes Smith’s 300th career win, a win she collected in a 4-2 win over Florida at Stone Stadium. The win makes her one of 27 coaches in NCAA Division I history to win that many matches and and ranks her 15th among power five coaches and fourth in SEC history.

Carolina, with the leadership of Smith, had an incredible 2019 season, winning the program’s fifth SEC Championship and reaching the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons. The Gamecocks finished undefeated in the SEC (7-0-3) for the third time in four seasons and eventually claimed the SEC Tournament title for the second time in program history in Orange Beach, Ala. The Gamecocks posted a record 17 shutouts during the season, the second most in the NCAA and broke the program record for team goals against average at 0.33 for the season. Smith and her staff were honored with the United Soccer Coaches Southeastern Staff of the Year honor. Defender Grace Fisk and goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski were both named SEC Players of the Year in their respective positions along with earning All-America honors. For their performances during the season a total six student-athletes were honored as All-SEC performers.

Smith and the Gamecocks posted a mark of 14-6-1 in 2018, finishing with double-digit wins for the sixth-straight year. South Carolina featured one of the program’s youngest teams of Smith’s tenure, as a school-record 26 players were underclassmen. The Gamecocks allowed just 12 goals during the season and the team’s top three goal scorers were either freshmen or sophomores.

Fisk, a 2018 Second-Team United Soccer Coaches All-American, spearheaded the defense by aiding in nine shutouts after returning to the South Carolina lineup after her time at the U20 Women’s World Cup earning a bronze medal with her native country of England. Fisk scored a gamewinner against Kentucky and added an assist in the 3-0 victory. She was paired with junior goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski who became the Gamecocks all-time leader in shutouts (34) and registered a junior record 0.59 goals against average during the season where she was named National Player of the Week two different times.

South Carolina, which tallied three wins over top-10 opponents and five 2018 NCAA Tourament teams, remained among the nation’s elite in 2018. Carolina earned a top-3 seed for the third-straight season and hosted a first-round match for the sixth time in the last seven years, advancing out of those games five times. The sixth-straight bid is the longest streak in program-history.

The 2017 season for Shelley Smith and the Gamecocks was seemingly a dream. A trip to the program’s first College Cup and another SEC Championship capped off the best season in women’s soccer history at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks climbed as high as No. 3 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, and went on to finish the regular season with an undefeated SEC record for the second-straight season, a streak that reached over 20 matches. The Gamecocks defeated No. 17 Florida on the road to secure the championship. The back-to-back championships is the first and only in program history.

The honors rolled in for Smith and the Gamecocks during the unforgettable season. Smith grabbed SEC Coach of the Year laurels for the second-straight season. Senior striker Savannah McCaskill (SEC Offensive Player of the Year) and sophomore center back Grace Fisk (SEC Defensive Player of the Year) also received major conference awards. The Gamecocks five All-SEC honors led the conference.

Two Carolina players earned 2017 United Soccer Coaches All-American honors after the 2017 season. McCaskill enjoyed the finest individual season in program history, being named an All-American and a MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist. Fisk helped the Gamecocks set a program single-season record in shutouts (16), and Carolina’s league-leading 0.401 goals against average ranks seventh in NCAA Division I. Carolina’s pair of First-Team selections matched a single-season program record, and 2017 marked the second-straight year the Gamecocks garnered at least two All-Americans.

The Gamecocks earned their second-straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed and drew Alabama State in the opening round. The road to the Women’s College Cup would again go through Stone Stadium. Top-seeded South Carolina posted a dominant 3-0 victory over Alabama State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament behind goals from freshmen Ryan Gareis and Bianca Galassini and sophomore Elexa Bahr. Bahr finished the night with three points on a goal and an assist for a Gamecock squad that registered a season-high 31 shots. Carolina didn’t allow a shot on goal for the second time in 2017.

The Gamecocks edged Wisconsin in the Round of 32 behind a first-half tally from freshman Luciana Zullo followed by wasting no time jumping on top of Santa Clara in the fourth minute when Savannah McCaskill headed home a rebound attempt off the crossbar to put the team in front 1-0 and to yet another NCAA quarterfinal match.

Carolina got its first taste of the bright lights when it faced Stanford in the Women’s College Cup semifinals. The Cardinal earned a 2-0 victory in the match, but the Gamecocks ended the season with their heads held high after securing the school’s first berth in the College Cup. Carolina went on to earn a No. 4 ranking in the final coaches poll of the season.

If there was ever any question about the program Shelley Smith has built, it was put away at the end of the 2016 season when Smith’s South Carolina squad won its third piece of conference hardware and rewrote the school’s record book.

The Gamecocks, who reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the second time in three years in 2016, boasted program single-season records for wins (21), victories over ranked opponents (5), goals (51) and goals against average (0.41). Carolina also cemented its place in the SEC record book, as it became the first school in league history to end a regular season unbeaten (17-0-1). The Gamecocks’ final mark of 21-2-1 gave them the top winning percentage (.896) in Division I and resulted in a No. 5 ranking in the final NCAA poll, the school’s highest finish ever.

Carolina trailed for just 85 seconds during the regular season, and the 2016 SEC Champions didn’t fall behind at all throughout conference play. After a draw in its opener against Oklahoma, Carolina closed the regular season with 17-straight victories in a stretch highlighted by home wins over No. 6 Clemson and No. 17 Florida. A victory over Texas A&M in the SEC quarterfinals pushed its program-record winning streak to 18, and the Gamecocks went on to earn the school’s first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

The road to the 2016 College Cup went through Stone Stadium, and the Gamecocks opened the NCAA Tournament with a dominant 7-0 win over Alabama State to give Smith her 200th victory at South Carolina. In the Round of 32, Carolina earned a 1-0 victory over No. 20 Colorado behind a penalty kick goal from striker Sophie Groff. Another penalty kick was the difference for the Gamecocks in the Round of 16, as senior captain Chelsea Drennan connected from the spot in the 69th minute to give her team a 1-0 victory over No. 4 BYU. Carolina’s second ended in the Elite Eight when it fell to North Carolina 1-0.

The accolades rolled in for Carolina during its record-setting 2016 campaign. Smith was tabbed the SEC Coach of the Year, while junior striker Savannah McCaskill (SEC Offensive Player of the Year) and senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz (SEC Defensive Player of the Year) also received major conference awards. A school-record six Gamecocks grabbed All-SEC honors, and five players were named to the All-Conference First Team.

Carolina earned 2016 NSCAA South Regional Coaching Staff of the Year laurels, and McCaskill and Kurtz were selected as NSCAA First-Team All-Americans. McCaskill enjoyed the finest individual season in program history, finishing with single-year school records for points (45), goals (17) and game-winners (10). Kurtz anchored a Gamecock back line that culminated in 14 shutouts, the second-best total in program history. The pair of standouts were also tabbed semifinalists for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, while Drennan (Second Team), the school’s all-time leader in assists (40), marked the final Gamecock to garner NSCAA All-America honors. Carolina’s two first-team All-America selections and three overall honorees matched the most in Division I.

The Gamecocks posted a mark of 12-5-3 in 2015, finishing with double-digit wins for the third-straight year. South Carolina featured one of the program’s most prolific offenses of Smith’s tenure, as a school-record 17 players netted goals. The Gamecocks tallied 44 goals, and their 2.2 goals per match were good for the fifth-best mark in school history.

McCaskill, a 2015 Third-Team NSCAA All-American, spearheaded the offensive attack with 29 points on 10 goals and nine assists. Her 29 points were the seventh-highest for a Gamecock in a season in program history, and she was the third player to total double-digit goals in the last five seasons for South Carolina. McCaskill and senior forward Raina Johnson grabbed All-SEC honors, and the two joined Drennan and midfielder Stevi Parker on the list of Gamecocks to be placed on NSCAA All-South Region Teams.

South Carolina, which tallied two wins over top-10 opponents for the second-straight season, remained among the nation’s elite in 2015 and finished in the top 20 of the NSCAA Final Regular Season poll for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Gamecocks were ranked in the Top 25 of the national poll the entire regular season, and they qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the last nine years.

After a regular season that saw Smith collect her 200th career head coaching victory, a pair of wins over top-10 teams and Savannah McCaskill earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors, a postseason run cemented the 2014 team’s place in the record book. The Gamecocks were awarded their second-straight national seed in the NCAA Tournament after posting a 14-6-5 record and an SEC Tournament Semifinal appearance and hosted rival Clemson in the first round. A heart-stopping penalty kick shootout the No. 22 Tigers at Stone Stadium ultimately ended with South Carolina advancing. Against Seattle in the second round, the Gamecocks earned their second-straight shutout, despite missing All-American Sabrina D’Angelo in goal due to an injury. Freshman Abbey Crider stepped between the pipes for her first collegiate start and delivered two crucial saves in the team’s second round of penalty kicks in as many games to move the Gamecocks on to the Round of 16 for just the second time in school history.

Two days later, Crider posted her second shutout of the weekend, this time against No. 6 North Carolina on their home turf. The 1-0 victory advanced South Carolina to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Florida State proved to be too much in the national quarterfinal, but the program had taken another step and wrapped up the season ranked No. 9 in the final NSCAA rankings.

After only seven wins in 2012, Smith’s program re-emerged on the national scene in 2013, rising to as high as No. 7 in the NSCAA poll. A 1-0 defeat of No. 7 Duke during the opening weekend was just the beginning. With only one loss on their record heading to No. 8 Florida in early October, the Gamecocks became the first program in the SEC to topple the Gators in consecutive matches in Gainesville, Fla., (2011 & 2013) as they pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win in double overtime. It marked the first time in program history that a Gamecock team had defeated a pair of top-10 opponents in the same season. On its home field, the squad never wavered, posting the first perfect home record (11-0-0) in program history, allowing just four goals at The Graveyard. The run helped the squad become the first Carolina team to enter the postseason ranked in the Top 10. The season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Stanford for the second time in three years, and Carolina’s final record of 17-4-2 resulted in a No. 15 ranking in the last NSCAA poll.

With the successful season, the accolades began to come as goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo earned NSCAA First-Team All-America honors behind 12 shutouts and a 0.59 goals against average. Along with D’Angelo, defender Taylor Leach and forward Danielle Au earned All-South Region accolades. Along with being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, D’Angelo, was paired with centerback Taylor Leach on the All-SEC First Team, while midfielder Chelsea Drennan was selected to the All-SEC Freshman Team. D’Angelo’s big season also earned her spot on the coveted semifinal list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, becoming the first Gamecock to earn the distinction. Carolina’s success has also been apparent in the classroom under Smith, who has coached 242 SEC Academic Honor Roll recipients since coming to USC in 2001. South Carolina has earned an Academic All-America selection in nine of the past 12 seasons.

Smith has coached several top student-athletes at Carolina including Ashley Kirk, USC’s first four-time All-SEC honoree, and Carolina’s All-Americans – Blakely Mattern, Kayla Grimsley, Savannah McCaskill, Sabrina D’Angelo, Kaleigh Kurtz and Chelsea Drennan. Other notable Gamecocks include two-time All-SEC performers Melinda Carter, Jessica Julin and Sarah Lentz. Julin, a former captain of the Finland National Team, and Carter and Mattern played in the WUSA and WPS, respectively. After the 2014 season, D’Angelo became program’s first NWSL draftee, going 22nd overall in the third round to the Western New York Flash. The All-American subsequently became the only rookie goalkeeper to earn a regular starting job in 2015.

The Gamecocks have earned 45 All-SEC honors in the last 16 years and six players have collected an SEC Player of the Year (player, freshman, offensive, defensive or scholar) award. In her first season as head coach at Carolina (2001), the Gamecocks were the third-most improved team in the nation with an 8-7-3 overall record. Carolina also performed well at home with a 5-3 at Stone Stadium while allowing opponents to score only four goals in eight matches. The success continued for USC in 2002 with 13 wins in Smith’s second season. The year was highlighted with USC’s first ever victories against Florida and Kentucky. Smith also coached her team to ties against 2002 SEC champion Auburn and Eastern Division champion Tennessee. Smith led the Gamecocks to another successful season in 2003 with 10 wins including a USC record eight-game unbeaten streak as well as a 6-2-1 record at home in Stone Stadium.

The 2004 season featured a win over No. 7 Clemson, the Gamecocks’ first win over a ranked opponent since 1998, as well as a 6-3 mark in non-conference action. Ashley Kirk also became the first soccer player in school history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year. Following an injury filled 2005 season, the program took a big step forward in 2006 as USC went undefeated at home for the first time in school history with an 8-0-3 mark at Stone Stadium. The team posted a cumulative goals against average of 0.69, then the lowest ever tallied at Carolina. The season culminated with the Gamecocks advancing to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time in Carolina history, as Blakely Mattern became the team’s first Freshman All-America selection since 1998.

Smith directed the 2007 Gamecocks to one of the best season in school history at that time, tying the then-school record with 14 victories and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history. Carolina posted a 14-6-3 overall record, including a 5-4-2 mark in the SEC after beginning the season by becoming the first team ever to knock off defending national champion and top-ranked North Carolina in a season opening game at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. The Gamecocks ran to a 7-0-0 start to the season – then-program bests for start to a season and winning streak – and peaked at No. 7 in the national polls. For the second consecutive season, South Carolina advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals after knocking off Tennessee for the first time in program history and earned the school’s first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Blakely Mattern became the first sophomore to ever earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in addition to becoming the first All-American in South Carolina history.

Carolina moved into the upper echelon of programs after Smith guided the Gamecocks in 2009 to the program’s first SEC title and a berth in the NCAA Round of 16, earning her SEC Coach of the Year and NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year honors. South Carolina was a No. 2 national seed in the NCAA tournament and posted a 19-4-2 record, the second-best in school history. The Gamecocks finished as one of the top defensive teams in the nation with a school-record 15 shutouts, led by Mattern on the backline who was a consensus first team All-American and Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist in her final season. Grimsley finished the year with 33 points and was named an honorable mention All-American by Top Drawer Soccer. The team finished eighth in the nation in average attendance.

In 2011, Smith earned both NSCAA South Region and SEC Coach of the Year honors for the second time in three years after solidifying South Carolina as an elite conference contender and nationally-acclaimed program. The Gamecocks won the 2011 SEC regular season and eastern division titles with a 9-2-0 record and moved to the NCAA Second Round for the third consecutive year – one of only two SEC programs to do so in that span. From 2007-11, Smith led the Gamecocks to 75 overall and 34 SEC victories, marks that ranked second amongst the league’s 12 active coaches during that span. She guided her teams to back-to-back SEC Championship Game appearances, winning the title in 2009 and claiming second in 2010, and Smith saw her team play for the SEC title on the final day of the regular season each of the past three seasons, breaking through in 2011 with a 2-1 victory at No. 18 Florida.

Besides her collegiate coaching, Smith was a member of the Region III ODP staff for the past six years, as well as an assistant for the `90 Regional Team. Smith also was a member of the 2003 U-14 National Camp staff for U.S. Soccer. With a background in both semi-professional and collegiate soccer, Smith previously served as head coach at Rhode Island from 1997-2000. The 2000 NSCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year, Smith rebuilt the URI women’s soccer program, compiling a 41-34-2 overall record. Smith took a program that was 2-16 her first year to 12-6-1 in her second season, marking the eighth-most improved won-lost record for a team in NCAA history.

In 2000, Smith coached URI to its best record ever of 15-4-1, while reaching the Atlantic 10 Semifinals, a first in URI history. Smith was nominated for the 2000 National Coach of the Year. The New England Women’s Soccer Intercollegiate Soccer Association (NEWISA) also named her its Division I Coach of the Year in 2000. She was the 1998 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year as well.

In addition to her experience as a coach, Smith brings experience from the semi-professional level. From 1996-2000, Smith played for the Boston Renegades in the W-1 League. Smith was captain in 2000 as she led Boston to the semifinals in the W-1 Championship. The Renegades reached the finals in 1998. Smith also had the opportunity to play overseas in 1994 as a member of the Sheffield United Women’s Football Club in England.

Smith, a 1993 graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in nutritional science, received her teacher’s certificate from the same institution in 1995. Smith started all four years for the Catamounts. Her primary positions were center midfielder and central defender. She was a regional All-American in both 1992 and `93 in addition to being named First Team All-North Atlantic Conference each year from 1991-93. During her freshman year, the squad won the ECAC Tournament. Vermont was one of the first programs to offer women’s soccer as a varsity sport and it competed on a national level. Smith was named to Vermont’s Athletic Hall of Fame in the summer of 2004.

Smith worked as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College from 1995-97. The Big Green made the NCAA Tournament in her second season with the program.

Smith is married to South Carolina associate head coach Jamie Smith, a 1994 graduate of Providence College. They are the proud parents of two sons, Braden James, born on Nov. 25, 2003 and Evan Addison born on Jan. 6, 2006. The family resides in Columbia, S.C. Smith has her USSF B license and the NCAA Advanced National Diploma. She is currently a member of the USYSA Regional Olympic Development Staff. A native of Shaftsbury, Vt., Smith graduated from Mount Anthony Union High School in 1989.

Shelley Smith’s Career Coaching Record
YEAR School Won Loss Tied Pct. Postseason Finish
1997 Rhode Island 2 16 0 .111
1998 Rhode Island 12 6 1 .658
1999 Rhode Island 12 8 0 .600
2000 Rhode Island 15 4 1 .775 A-10 semifinals
2001 South Carolina 8 7 3 .528
2002 South Carolina 13 6 2 .667 SEC Quarterfinals
2003 South Carolina 10 8 3 .548 SEC Quarterfinals
2004 South Carolina 8 10 2 .450
2005 South Carolina 6 12 0 .333
2006 South Carolina 11 6 5 .614 SEC Semifinals
2007 South Carolina 14 6 3 .674 SEC Semifinals; NCAA First Round
2008 South Carolina 11 7 4 .591 SEC Quarterfinals; NCAA First Round
2009 South Carolina 19 4 2 .800 SEC Tournament Champions; NCAA Round of 16
2010 South Carolina 15 6 4 .680 SEC Championship Game; NCAA Second Round
2011 South Carolina 16 7 0 .696 SEC Champions; SEC Quarterfinals; NCAA Second Round
2012 South Carolina 7 10 4 .428 SEC Quarterfinals
2013 South Carolina 17 4 2 .783 SEC Semifinals; NCAA Second Round
2014 South Carolina 14 6 5 .660 SEC Semifinals; NCAA Quarterfinals
2015 South Carolina 12 5 3 .675 SEC Quarterfinals; NCAA First Round
2016 South Carolina 21 2 1 .896 SEC Champions; SEC Semifinals; NCAA Quarterfinals
2017 South Carolina 19 3 1 .848 SEC Champions; SEC Quarterfinals; College Cup
2018 South Carolina 14 6 1 .690 SEC Semifinals; NCAA Second Round
2019 South Carolina 19 2 3 .850 SEC Tournament Champions; NCAA Quarterfinals
2020-21 South Carolina 11 5 0 .688 SEC Tournament Semifinals; NCAA Second Round
2021 South Carolina 14 6 1 .691 SEC Quarterfinals; NCAA Quarterfinals
2022 South Carolina 15 4 5 .667 SEC Tournament Champions, NCAA Round of 16
Rhode Island (4 Years) 41 34 2 .560
South Carolina (22 Years) 294 133 54 .667 Six SEC Championships; 22-15-2 NCAA Tournament Record
OVERALL (26 Years) 335 168 56 .649 15 NCAA Appearances