Gamecock Soccer Blanks Mercer 1-0 in NCAA Tournament
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – – South Carolina defeated Mercer 1-0 on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship at Stone Stadium. The win avenged a 3-2 double overtime loss to the Bears earlier this season on Aug. 30.
Mercer stuck to a very solid game plan, as they came out and controlled the ball for much of the first half offensively. The Bears tallied five shots in the first half, including two on goal.
Junior William Pyle, who was a rock all day in the net, made two spectacular saves in the opening period. In the 8th minute, he made a diving, full-extension save to his right on a shot by Mercer’s Kobe Perez. In the 35th minute, SoCon Player of the Year Will Bagrou beat a Gamecock defender 1-on-1 in the box. He rifled a shot on goal that Pyle was able to punch over the net.
Carolina, who logged only two shots in period one, made the most of its opportunities. In the 39th minute, senior Kurtis Turner setup a free kick from the right side of the box. He played a beautiful ball into sophomore Andre Streete. Senior Kevin Walker slipped low to the net behind the defense and Streete headed the free kick from Turner to his wide open teammate. Walker finished the great dish from Streete for his fifth goal of the season. Turner and Streete were credited with a double-assist on the score.
The Gamecocks played one of their best halves of the season defensively in period two, limiting the Bears chances on offense. In the 72nd minute, Bagrou beat his defender from 10-yards out. Pyle steam rolled out of the net to block the ensuing shot by Bagrou, leaving the net empty. Senior Matt McManis slipped down from the backside and was able to step in front of the shot for the team save.
South Carolina effectively controlled the tempo in half two, nearly adding to its lead twice on two transition chances. In the 86th minute, freshman Luca Mayr fed a perfect outlet pass down the middle of the field to freshman Inaki Aguirre. The Madrid, Spain, native fired a shot that just missed wide ride.
Mercer had one more chance on a late free kick, but the Gamecocks stout defense held and was able to clear the ball.
Carolina moves on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year. Last season, the Gamecocks beat Furman on PKs at home in the opening round to advance.
Head Coach Mark Berson on the toughness of NCAA Tournament games: “This was a really close, hard-fought game, as the NCAA Tournament games are. You go ahead and look at the men’s bracket and all the first round games and see that they’re all very similar. They’re all very tight. Mercer is a very, very good team. We knew that from the regular season. I was really proud of the way our guys dug in. In the second half, we had some really solid play and really good performances.”
Walker’s goal in the 39th minute helped turn the momentum back to Carolina. It would be all the Gamecocks would need, as the goal ended up being the game-winner.
South Carolina was able to neutralize one of the nation’s top players in Mercer’s Will Bagrou. He logged just two shots all game.
- South Carolina improves to 17-21-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 12-10-3 record at home.
- Senior Kevin Walker scored his first career NCAA goal today. The score was his fifth of the season. He now ranks third on the team with 11 points (5G, 1A).Junior goalkeeper William Pyle is now 11-5-1 on the year with 64 saves and five shutouts. He posted four saves in this afternoon’s win.
- Senior Kurtis Turner and sophomore Andre Streete each logged their first career NCAA assists.
The Gamecocks will stay instate for their second round matchup, as they hit the road to face rival and third-seeded Clemson (12-3-5). Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Riggs Field. The Tigers beat Carolina in the season opener, 2-1, in Columbia. 6,892 fans attended the match, which set a new Stone Stadium single-game record.