Losing to LSU in the regular season kept South Carolina’s women’s soccer team from the SEC regular-season championship.
The Gamecocks got their revenge Sunday.
USC’s Blakely Mattern scored with two minutes remaining in the game to force overtime, and goalie Mollie Patton made a save in the fourth round of sudden-death penalty kicks as the Gamecocks beat LSU on penalties, 8-7, to win the program’s first SEC tournament championship.
“I’m speechless,” Mattern said. “My team has fought so hard since we’ve been here and all season to get to this point. To be down a goal and to come back with two minutes left shows heart. That’s what we’ve shown all week. I’m so proud of our team and how hard we worked to never give up. I knew it was in us, and I knew we could win.”
Patton dived to her left to stop the shot by Chelsea Potts in the fourth sudden-death round. The teams were tied 4-4 after five regulation rounds.
“It’s unbelievable,” USC coach Shelley Smith said. “It just shows the heart these guys have had. You don’t want it to be too dramatic, but it’s well deserved today. They played their hearts out, battled and never gave up.”
USC had the early edge in the penalty kicks after LSU’s first penalty taker, Katherine Lagow, missed right of the post. USC’s Samantha Diaz-Matosas, Kim Miller, Mattern and Kindsay Small each scored on their attempts, but LSU forced sudden death when Kayla Grimsley’s shot went high and left of the crossbar.
Kortney Rhoades, Brittiny Rhoades, Brooke Jacobs and Maddy Kill each scored against LSU keeper Mo Isom before Patton stopped Potts’ shot.
Four Gamecocks were named to the all-tournament team: Mattern, Grimsley, Miller and Small. South Carolina avenged each of its three losses during the regular season, defeating Georgia and Florida to reach the finals against LSU.
“We have good leadership and experience,” Smith said. “They learned from the mistakes they made through the season. The losses make you stronger if you deal with them properly. They reacted the way they needed to and took care of business.”
Melissa Clarke gave LSU the lead in the 11th minute on a penalty kick, shooting off the left post and in. The Tigers held a 5-1 lead in shots in the first half.
The second half saw USC with the majority of possession, which almost paid off in the 72nd minute when a goal was waved off on a referee’s whistle. The game-tying goal came when Mattern and Grimsley connected on a give-and-go, and Mattern was able to slide the ball around Isom for her seventh goal of the season.
USC’s momentum carried over into the first overtime period. Jacobs had a header that went over the crossbar, and Diaz-Matosas nearly connected after a cross by Grimsley. Isom was able to secure two game-saving saves when Small’s shot from 8 yards out was collected in the 95th and Kortney Rhoades’ open shot 10 yards out was saved.
Neither team could manage an advantage in the second overtime period with the best look coming one minute in after a USC miscue gave Clarke a wide open shot on Patton, who made a diving save.