Home opener vs. Samford at Stone Stadium set for 6 p.m. Sunday
COLUMBIA, SC August 21, 2014 – South Carolina women’s soccer opens its 2014 season on the road with a trip to East Carolina on Fri., Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. The meeting marks the second time in the past four years that the Gamecocks have opened their season with a visit to ECU. On Sunday, South Carolina returns to Columbia for its home opener against Samford at 6 p.m in Stone Stadium. The contest will be a test for the Gamecocks as the Bulldogs are riding a four-match regular-season win streak against SEC opponents and defeated Ole Miss 3-2 in an exhibition match last week.
SEASON OPENER INFORMATION
Date/Opponent: Fri., Aug. 22 at East Carolina
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Greenville, N.C.
Stadium: Johnson Soccer Stadium
HOME OPENER INFORMATION
Date/Opponent: Sun., Aug. 24 vs. Samford
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Stadium: Stone Stadium
Coverage: SEC Network+
Promotions: Free women’s soccer schedule rally towns for the first 500 fans, Columbia United Night – wear your club shirt/jersey to receive $1 admission
The Pirates return 23 players from last year’s squad that posted a 9-9-3 overall record and advanced to the Conference USA Tournament semifinals. Defender Catelin Hite returns a year after becoming the first freshman in ECU history to earn All-Conference USA First Team honors. This year as the Pirates embark on their first season in the American Athletic Conference, Hite was named to the league’s preseason all-conference team. Junior striker Kendall Frey was ECU’s leading scorer in 2013, tallying 13 points on six goals and an assist. In goal, Saundra Barron is back after playing in 21 of 23 matches last season. Barron notched five clean sheets and posted a 1.19 goals against average. In exhibition play last week, ECU took down Longwood 1-0 on a 93rd minute goal from freshman striker Courtney Taybron.
The meeting marks the second time in the past four years that the Gamecocks have opened their season at ECU. In 2011, the teams opened the season in Greenville, N.C, with South Carolina taking a 4-0 victory. The teams also met last season with the Gamecocks taking a 1-0 victory in Columbia, S.C.
SOUTH CAROLINA IN SEASON OPENERS
South Carolina enters 2012 with an all-time record of 10-5-2 in season openers. Three games have gone to overtime – College of Charleston (2001), Clemson (2003) and UNC Wilmington (2008). In home contests, the Gamecocks boast a perfect 6-0 record, outscoring opponents 19-2. When heading on the road to open the season, Carolina carries an even 4-4-2 record overall after a 4-0 victory at East Carolina last season. Friday’s Milwaukee match marks the sixth time in the past seven seasons that Carolina has opened the season on the road. The Gamecocks are 1-2 against ranked opponents, falling to #20 and #13 ranked teams but defeating #1 UNC in 2007. Under Coach Smith, the Gamecocks have gone 7-2-2 in season openers.
Samford returns six starters from last season’s 13-6-2 campaign and third place finish in the SoCon (5-3-2). Picked to finish second in the SoCon this season, Samford began their season in impressive fashion, defeating Ole Miss 3-2 in exhibition play. Not including the exhibition result, the Bulldogs own a four-match winning streak against SEC opponents in which the Bulldogs swept home contests against Tennessee (1-0), Auburn (1-0) and Vanderbilt (3-2) last season. Sophomore Malcanisha Kelly is back after leading the Bulldogs with 19 points (8g, 3a) in a freshman season highlighted by a First-Team All-Southern Conference nod. Samford also added three transfers, including Heather Lacy from Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs open their regular season in a home contest against Cincinnati on Fri., Aug. 22, before making the trip to Columbia for Sunday’s match.
sec network+ debut
Sunday’s home match against Samford will be South Carolina’s first live broadcast on the SEC Network+. The game will be available through participating TV providers only through WatchESPN. All of the Gamecocks’ home matches as well as road conference matches are slated to be available on the platform.
Click here for more information on the newly launched SEC Network: http://www.gamecocksonline.com/ot/sec-network.html
HOME SWEET HOME
“The Graveyard” proved to be a friendly place for the Gamecocks in 2013 as they streaked to a perfect 11-0-0 record at home, the first in program history. With a 2-1 win over SEC foe Kentucky, the 2013 squad became the first team to win 10 regular season games at Stone Stadium. They added another against Furman in the NCAA Tournament to push the streak to 11, tying the 2009 (11-1-0) squad with the most home wins in school history. South Carolina’s stingy defense allowed just four goals in 11 home matches.
The SEC coaches selected South Carolina to finish third in the league, with Florida and Texas A&M topping the table. Last season, the Gamecocks finished behind co-champions Florida and Texas A&M.
Four Gamecocks were named to the SEC Preseason Watch List – senior goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, senior centerback Taylor Leach, sophomore midfielder Chelsea Drennan and freshman midfielder Savannah McCaskill. D’Angelo is a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2011, 2013) and has been an All-SEC honoree each season of her career in the Garnet and Black. Leach joined D’Angelo on the All-SEC First Team and Drennan earned an SEC All-Freshman nod. McCaskill enters the season as a four-star prospect.
NATIONAL RESPECT ON THE RISE
The Gamecocks start the season ranked in various polls after the program earned its second top-15 final ranking in school history last year. The NSCAA has South Carolina at the No. 14 spot in their preseason poll, the highest for the Gamecocks since entering the 2010 season at No. 12. South Carolina is one of three SEC teams in the poll with Florida at No. 8 and Texas A&M at No. 9. TopDrawerSoccer.com has Shelley Smith’s program at No. 9 in their preseason rankings.
A year after becoming the first MAC Hermann semifinalist in program history, Sabrina D’Angelo begins the season on the 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. Of the 35 players on the 2014 watch list, D’Angelo is one of four who were semifinalists last season. In 2013, the Canadian had one of the best seasons for a keeper in South Carolina history, recording 12 shutouts and posting a 0.59 goals against average while anchoring the SEC’s top defense. Her 12 shutouts led the conference and ranked seventh nationally. In two games against top-10 competition in 2013, D’Angelo stood her ground against 22 shots to produce eight saves and allow only one goal to help the Gamecocks defeat two top-10 opponents in a season (No. 7 Duke, 1-0; at No. 8 Florida, 2-1 2OT) for the first time in program history.
South Carolina returns eight of 11 starters and 77.3 percent of its scoring from the record-breaking 2013 campaign. 2013 leading scorer Raina Johnson netted 10 goals and an assist last season. Johnson’s five game-winning goals is the second-most in a season in South Carolina history. The Gamecocks’ top distributor Chelsea Drennan is back for her sophomore season after dishing out 12 assists to set a freshman single season record in 2013. Six of Drennan’s set-ups led to a game-winning tally, a single-season record.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
The Gamecocks continue a five-game home stand with the Garnet and Black Classic on Fri., Aug. 29, and Sun., Aug. 30. Friday’s matches pit Milwaukee and College of Charleston at 4 p.m. followed by the Gamecocks and Boston University shortly after. On Sunday, Boston University and College of Charleston are set for a 12 p.m. kick before the Gamecocks conclude the two-day event at 2:30 p.m. against Milwaukee.