Gamecock women’s soccer set to open 2020 season

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The University of South Carolina women’s soccer (19-2-3, 7-0-3 SEC in 2019) is set to take on Georgia (8-7-4, 4-3-3 SEC in 2019) in its 2020 season opener on the road. The match is set for Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. at Turner Soccer Complex on SEC Network.

For the third time in four seasons South Carolina women’s soccer (19-2-3, 7-0-3 SEC) reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in 2019. The Gamecocks were the last standing SEC program in the 64-team tournament.

Prior to the NCAA Tournament the Gamecocks claimed their fifth SEC Championship in program history at the 2019 SEC Tournament. The tournament title was the second in program history and was the third overall conference championship the team won in the past four seasons.

During their tournament runs in the 2019 season the Gamecocks did not allow a goal in seven straight matches, with all of those teams finishing the season with winning records, before falling to Washington State in the NCAA quarterfinals. After the successful season the Gamecocks had two United Soccer Coaches All-Americans in now-graduated defender Grace Fisk and goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski. Fisk also went on to be named the women’s soccer National Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Carolina will return 10 of its top 11 scorers from the 2019 season that saw the Gamecocks score 43 goals, the most since 2016. Lauren ChangLuciana Zullo and Ryan Gareis, the Gamecocks top three returning goal scorers, have scored a combined 37 goals in their career. Those 37 goals ranks them fourth in the SEC among top three returning goal scorers. Seniors Anna Patten and Sarah Eskew and junior Sutton Jones will bolster an outstanding defensive back line for the Gamecocks that allowed just eight goals last season, the least among of goals among teams who played at least 20 matches.

The Bulldogs (8-7-4, 4-3-3 SEC) return all 11 of their starters from the 2019 squad that missed the NCAA Tournament but finished the season ‘on the bubble’ with an final RPI of 57. Georgia returns its top goal scorer in sophomore Chloe Chapman who scored six goals last season on just 25 shots. Chapman also plays on the UGA women’s basketball squad where she earned a spot in the starting lineup late in the season. On the defensive side of the ball the Bulldogs will return All-SEC First Team defender Kayla Bruster along with goalkeeper Emory Wegener who started 17 matches last season. The senior started both matches against Carolina in 2019, giving up a combined four goals and making nine total saves. On top of returning all of their starters on the defensive side, the Bulldogs added a Florida State transfer in defender Ali Kalayjian. The sophomore was a part of the Seminoles that reached the NCAA quarterfinals last season.

As of July 30, 2020, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rules to allow student-athletes in all sports to wear patches on their uniforms for commemorative and memorial purposes, as well as to support social justice issues. Student-athletes of the South Carolina women’s soccer program chose to wear patches that read “Matter is the Minimum” on their right sleeve.

The Gamecocks chose to wear these patches because they want to use their platform as student-athletes to take a stand against systemic racism and social injustice. The team does not tolerate any form of racism and injustice and wants to do its part to make a change. Although these patches are small, they stand for a movement that is bigger than any game.

For the first time since 2015, a total of 1,769 days, Mikayla Krzeczowski will not be in goal for the Gamecocks. The only goalkeeper to return with experience is sophomore Heather Hinz, who played just 45 minutes during her freshman campaign in 2019. Freshman Taylor Fox joins the squad in 2020 while sophomore Anne Frances Lorio did not make an appearance in her freshman season.

The University of South Carolina women’s soccer program was projected to finish second in the SEC preseason coaches’ poll, announced by the Southeastern Conference on Sept. 16. This is the second straight year the Gamecocks have been projected to finish in second and is tied for the highest projection since divisions were eliminated after the 2013 season.

The Gamecocks sit just behind preseason favorite Arkansas and are in front of Texas A&M, who the Gamecocks do not face in 2020, followed by Vanderbilt and Florida to round out the preseason top five.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports, USC Gamecocks