Gamecocks Fall To UNC 1-0 To See Historic Season End In NCAA Elite Eight
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1 seed South Carolina women’s soccer saw its historic season end in the NCAA Elite Eight after falling to second-seed North Carolina 1-0 Friday night at Stone Stadium. With the loss, the third-ranked Gamecocks finished the year at 21-2-1.
After the Tar Heels opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, South Carolina had a tremendous chance at an equalizer in the early stages of the second half when it was awarded a penalty kick. Gamecock junior forward Savannah McCaskill set up the opportunity when she collected a long pass and raced into the right side of the box, where she was taken down. South Carolina senior striker Sophie Groff lined up for the kick and rifled a shot that was turned away by UNC goalkeeper Lindsey Harris near the left post.
North Carolina’s first-half tally came on a give-and-go play by forward Madison Schultz and midfielder Annie Kingman. Schultz slipped it to Kingman, who passed it right back to set the striker up near the top left corner of the box. Schultz collected the pass and chipped an arching shot into the top right corner of the net past the outstretched arms of Gamecock freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski.
The Gamecocks saw several scoring chances early in the match, starting in the ninth minute when a ball in from midfield found Chelsea Drennan. The senior flicked a header towards a streaking McCaskill near the top of the box, but a UNC defender was there to cut off the pass. In the 15thminute, South Carolina was inches away from breaking through following a corner kick from Drennan. Her service in connected with McCaskill, who put a blistering header on target that was cleared off the line by a defender at the last second. Senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz alertly attempted to put home the rebound, but Harris was able to recover and make the save.
Kurtz again nearly put the Gamecocks on the board the 41st minute when she tried her luck from distance near the left side of the box. The Greer, S.C., native fired a dipping attempt that sailed by Harris before dinging off the crossbar. South Carolina boasted a 9-8 shot advantage in the opening 45 minutes.
The Gamecocks’ final quality bid for an equalizer came in the 63rd minute after another corner from Drennan. Her ball in found senior defender Paige Bendell, whose header fell to McCaskill deep inside the box. McCaskill one-timed a header that missed just wide right, and the ball went out for a goal kick.\
Krzeczowski totaled six saves on the night, including a huge stop in the 76th minute to keep the Gamecocks within one. A deflection in the attacking third left Schultz with a breakaway opportunity, and Krzeczowski alertly came off her line and threw her body in front of the shot to stifle the scoring chance.
Carolina outshot the Tar Heels 16-14 for the match and put nine attempts on frame. The Tar Heels held a slight 6-5 advantage in corner kicks and put seven shots on target.
“What a great game tonight. We knew it would be. Fantastic environment for college women’s soccer – unbelievable. Just want to thank this team for what they’ve done all season and the fans that have come out to support. It’s been an amazing experience. An opportunity tonight for one of us to go to the Final Four – congratulations to North Carolina on their season and finding a way tonight to do that. Huge congratulations to them. As a told the team, at the end of the day, nothing to hang their heads about. We battled and the ball just didn’t go our way tonight, and it went North Carolina’s. Sometimes that’s how it happens. It could have gone either way. Again, congratulations to UNC.” – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Senior forward Sophie Groff’s well-placed strike on South Carolina’s penalty kick was stopped by a diving save from UNC goalkeeper Lindsey Harris. The stop preserved North Carolina’s 1-0 advantage and kept the Gamecocks off the score sheet for just the second time this season.
The Tar Heels managed to put seven shots on target in the match. UNC was one of just six opponents to put three or more attempts on frame against the Gamecocks this year.
>> South Carolina’s 21 wins, 17 regular-season victories and five triumphs over ranked opponents in 2016 are all single-season program records.
>> UNC’s goal in the first half was just the fourth tally conceded by the Gamecocks at Stone Stadium this year. South Carolina outscored opponents 37-4 this fall at the friendly confines of The Graveyard.
>> Friday was just the second time this year the Gamecocks were shutout in a match.
>> This season marked South Carolina’s second appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight in the last three years. The Gamecocks have reached the NCAA Tournament in nine of the last 10 years.