Monday was a day of celebration for the USC women's soccer team, both for program firsts of winning the SEC tournament and earning a host bid to the NCAA tournament.
Tuesday the Gamecocks got back to work. Practicing in wet conditions, they prepared for Friday's game against Davidson at Stone Stadium.
"Back to business," junior defender Brittiny Rhoades said. "Our coaches and captains did a great job of pulling us out of the excitement and getting us back to where we need to be. It's the beginning of a new season."
Senior midfielder Kim Miller, whose 11 assists lead the team, said they practiced with the same relaxed confidence they have all season.
"It felt the same as September," Miller said. "But we were working hard and pushing each other."
That steady regimen has pushed the team to an all-time best record of 17-3-2. After losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament on the road the past two seasons, the Gamecocks are focused on advancing this time around - just as they did in winning three in a row in the SEC tourney.
"Everybody knew we could only be on Cloud 9 for so long," senior defender Samantha Diaz-Matosas said. "We got back into the mood of practice and working for the next game. Practice is always intense because we're really, really competitive. Everybody's in good spirits. We're excited about the opportunity to play here in front of the home crowd."
Home at last. Tickets will cost $8 for adults and $5 for youth (12 and under). That price will cover both games Friday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The prices will be the same for Sunday's single game, which will be played at 1 p.m.
In good health. Diaz-Matosas, who has three goals and four assists, had her right foot in a boot Tuesday after she rolled her ankle in Sunday's SEC title game. While she sat out Tuesday's practice, she called it precautionary. She expects to be at full speed Friday. Backup midfielder Lolly Holland, who missed the final two games of the SEC tournament, is still dealing with a balky knee.
Wildcat formation. Davidson earned its automatic bid by winning the Southern Conference tournament, with a 1-0 victory over the College of Charleston in the title game. The Wildcats (12-9-1), who are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, are making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. This meeting will be the ninth against USC, with the last one coming in 2003. The Gamecocks lead the series 6-2.
Scarlet vs. Blue. The other side of the Stone Stadium bracket features Duke (8-8-4) playing Rutgers (13-3-4). The Blue Devils are making their seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament while the Scarlet Knights are making their third in four seasons.
Hoisting the cup. The NCAA College Cup will bring the tournament's final four teams together Dec. 4-6 at Aggie Soccer Stadium in College Station, Texas. The four No. 1 seeds are Stanford, UCLA, North Carolina and Florida State in the 64-team field. The No. 2 seeds in addition to USC are Portland, Boston College and Notre Dame. The ACC and Pac-10 lead all conferences with eight teams each, while the Big East has seven, the SEC has six, and the Big 10 has five.
In the net. SEC coach of the year Shelley Smith, who is in her ninth season with USC, needs two more wins to reach 100. She is 98-65-24 with the Gamecocks. ... Sophomore forward Kayla Grimsley, who has 11 goals this season, became the fifth player in USC history to put together a 10-goal season. ... USC's 17 wins are third-most in the country behind Stanford (20) and Portland (18).