South Carolina accomplished something Friday night it had not done previously in 15 seasons of playing women's soccer. With a 4-0 victory against Davidson at Stone Stadium, the Gamecocks won an NCAA tournament game.
It occurred in the program's fourth trip to the tournament, with home-field advantage proving beneficial; first-round exits in 1998 and each of the past two seasons came on the road.
This win proved to be sweet vindication.
"It's a great feeling, and we want to enjoy it as long as we can," said junior forward Brooke Jacobs, who scored the game's only first-half goal. "We just made history, and everyone is so happy."
USC (18-3-2) advances to play Rutgers (14-3-4), which defeated Duke 2-0 in the first game Friday, at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Gamecocks, who improved to 10-0 at home this season, put the game away with three goals in a four-minute span early in the second half. Davidson (12-10-1), was making its appearance in the NCAA tournament.
USC's Shelley Smith, the SEC coach of the year, had no doubt her team would be ready, especially coming off its run to the SEC tournament title.
"I knew they'd take care of business," she said. "All year what's made a difference is they've come out prepared to play."
Leading scorer Kayla Grimsley scored second-half goals, in the 52nd and 56th minutes. They were sandwiched around Samantha Diaz-Matosas' 20-yard strike in the 55th minute. That boosted USC's lead to 4-0 and deflated the Wildcats.
Grimsley's close-range shots gave her 13 goals on the season, one shy of the school record set by Jennie Ondo in 1996 and '99. Grimsley, a sophomore forward from Lakeland, Fla., also moved to third on the team's all-time goals list with 21.
Grimsley said the Gamecocks were frustrated at the half after scoring one goal while outshooting the Wildcats 11-1, but she added that senior defender Blakely Mattern assured her more shots were going to find the net in the second half.
"We've just got to fight for 90 minutes," Grimsley said. "We know if it doesn't come right away that we're going to get our chances."
USC outshot the Wildcats 16-3 while converting three of its five shots in the second half.
Junior goalkeeper Mollie Patton added to her school record by posting her 14th shutout of the season. She credited the home crowd of 3,813, a record for the women's program, for making a big difference.
"The fans that came out were amazing. They really pulled behind us tonight," Patton said.
Davidson coach Greg Ashton was impressed by the Gamecocks.
"We played against a very, very good South Carolina team," Ashton said. "Little old Davidson, we gave it our best."
He took special note of Grimsley's creativity.
"She's a darn good player," Ashton said. "She caused our back line some headaches. I'd love to have her on our team."
With the exception of the first five minutes, the Gamecocks controlled the first half. It didn't come until the 30th minute and after a number of misses, but the goal by Jacobs finally got them going. She ripped a ball from 35 yards into the left corner.
"I cut it back and saw the net and hit it as hard as I could," Jacobs said of her fifth goal of the season.
The Gamecocks had several prior scoring chances. Kortney Rhoades missed an open shot just wide right; Baxa made a deflection on a dead-on shot by Grimsley; and Diaz-Matosas couldn't drive home a header off a solid cross by Jacobs.
Now USC will try to make more history against the Scarlet Knights.
"It's going to be a great game," Jacobs said. "No matter what, we'll be ready to play."