(7) Gamecocks Women Soccer Ready For Top-10 Match At (4) Clemson
BY: TYRIA GOINES
COLUMBIA S.C.– No. 7 South Carolina women’s soccer (5-1-0) is set for a top-10 battle on the road against in-state rival and No. 4-ranked Clemson (6-0-0) on Friday, Sept. 8. Kickoff from Riggs Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. This week’s match marks the first time in history the two rivals will face one another with both teams ranked in the top-10.
“This is always a big rivalry. It’s exciting this year to have two teams both in the top-10. It’s a match-up for the whole country to watch. This is what the non-conference schedule is all about – getting these challenges. The environment is always exciting. We always approach it as a big game, and we understand there are going to be extra emotions on both sides. We treat it as another chance to play a top opponent,” said South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith.
Clemson’s defense has sparked its strong start to the season, as the Tigers have allowed just one goal over their first six matches of 2017. The team’s 0.163 goals against average ranks second in the ACC and ninth in NCAA Division I, and its 0.833 shutout percentage is good for the sixth-best mark nationally. The Tigers are 2-0 at home on the year, earning victories over Auburn, 2-1 on Aug. 25, and VCU 1-0, Sept. 1.
Clemson graduate transfer midfielder Jenna Polonsky leads the Tiger attack with 11 points on four goals and three assists, while freshman forward Mariana Speckmaier and senior midfielder Jeni Erickson mark the two other Clemson players with at least three goals this season. Sophomores Melanie Stiles and Sandy Maclver have split time in net this year for a Tiger team that hasn’t conceded a goal in the last 318 minutes of game action.
South Carolina climbed four spots to No. 7 in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll, which was released on Tuesday. The Gamecocks, who spent the first two weeks of 2017 ranked inside the top-five, have been positioned in the top-15 in each of the poll’s last 15 installments dating back to last season. The Gamecocks also sport a 17-game winning streak in matches played in September in a stretch that dates back to 2015.
South Carolina boasted a perfect showing at the Notre Dame Invitational this past weekend after notching victories over Notre Dame on Sept. 1 and Michigan on Sept. 3 in South Bend, Ind. The Gamecocks moved past the host Irish 1-0 in overtime last Friday when freshman Ryan Gareis collected a through ball from senior striker Savannah McCaskill and scored a short-range goal to deliver the victory.
On Sunday against Michigan, Gamecock freshman midfielder Bianca Galassini netted two second-half goals in six minutes to spark a 2-1 come-from-behind victory for Carolina. Both tallies came from inside the box, and the game-winner came in the 60th minute after Galassini took advantage of a poor clearance from the Wolverines and chipped the ball into the right side of the net.
South Carolina has gone 6-3-1 over its last 10 matches against Clemson, including a 2-1 win over the then-No. 6 Tigers last fall at Stone Stadium. Each of the last six contests between the two have been decided by one goal or less, and Clemson leads the all-time series with a mark of 13-9-1.
A point in the annual Palmetto Series will also be up for grabs when the Tigers and Gamecocks hit the field this Friday.