South Carolina senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan stepped over the ball just inside the box against No. 17 Florida and, for a brief moment, went blank.
She recovered quickly, however, and her penalty kick in the 103rd minute gave No. 2 South Carolina a 1-0 double overtime victory over No. 17 Florida in woman’s soccer Sunday afternoon in front of 2,215 fans at Stone Stadium.
“Honestly, I kind of… not blacked out, but in the moment you pick where you’re going to go and I just went that way,” Drennan said. “I hoped it would go in and it did. I always kick to the keeper’s bottom right, but I saw her move at the last second, so I kind of tried to get it up a little bit because I knew she would be diving.”
The ending was in stark contrast to a season ago, when Florida scored in the closing seconds of double overtime to escape with an unlikely victory. South Carolina coach Shelley Smith didn’t want to talk about last year before the match, but the ending was almost poetic this time around.
“That’s a tough way to lose, but a great way to win. We knew coming in we would have a battle on our hands and someone had to come up with a big play,” Smith said. “Last year, we lost in the last seconds where sometimes you don’t deserve to lose. It could have gone either way (today), so we were happy for the opportunity at the end.”
Drennan said last year was in the back of the Gamecocks’ mind.
“We always say we want to take it one game at a time, but this was a big game for us, especially coming off last year,” she said. “Losing in the last seconds was heartbreaking for us, so it was a big way to win off of a PK in double overtime.”
Drennan’s kick was her sixth goal of the season, and continued the magical run to open the season for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina (14-0-1) extended its school record winning streak to 14 games, and more importantly stayed atop the SEC standings at 8-0 with three matches to play.
The Gamecocks’ defense again set the tone. Florida senior Savannah Jordan came into the contest leading the SEC in points (31) and goals (12), but USC freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski was more than up to the task.
She finished with six saves in her 11th start of the season. She ranks first in the SEC in goals against average (0.45) and shutouts (7), and used the efforts of defenders Anna Conlin, Kaleigh Kurtz, Evelyn Robinson and Paige Bendell to continue solid play.
They thwarted Florida (10-4, 5-3) at every turn. South Carolina hasn’t allowed more than one goal in any game this season.
“I thought today, defensively, we were very good and limited opportunities,” Smith said. “At times, Florida controlled possession. We haven’t faced that all year. I thought we handled it and went back at them, so it was nice to overcome that. It was a battle of two good teams.”
Drennan also had high praise for Krzeczowski.
“(Krzeczowski) doesn’t act like a freshman whatsoever,” Drennan said. “Her leadership back there is crucial for our success this year. We always depend on her to come up with big saves.”
Since tying Oklahoma in the season opener, the Gamecocks have found a way to get it done with a host of players being a hero. When things entered the 102nd minute against Florida, Drennan knew she couldn’t let her teammates down.
“We work really hard for what we get,” she said. “Sometimes things don’t go our way. We face adversity throughout a game a lot, but we keep working and fighting to play as a team together. We fight and play for each other, and that’s what makes us successful.”