The USC women’s soccer team achieved a number of impressive milestones this season.
First, there was the perfect regular season record as the team went 17-0-1. Then, there was head coach Shelley Smith’s 200th career win – against Alabama State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last Friday.
They’d surely like to add an NCAA Tournament title to that list of achievements, but Smith said the team isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“We’re not looking ahead,” Smith said “We’re learning from what we’ve done and trying to get better every game. I think what we did in the first round is an attest to what we’ve done all year.”
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The top-seeded Gamecocks are preparing to host No. 20 Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Smith knows Colorado is a big jump in competition from Alabama State, but has confidence her team will do what it’s done all season.
“We’ve faced good competition all year, and we’re going to build off of that,” Smith said. “I thought we did well to put away that opponent, score a lot of goals and do what we needed to do. I expect again to come out and have a much tougher task with Colorado, but we’ll be up for the challenge.”
The Colorado Buffaloes (15-1-1) are coming off of a 3-1 win against Oklahoma State and, similarly to the Gamecocks, are loaded with young talent. Midfielder Taylor Kornieck was recognized as the PAC-12 Freshman of the Year and goalkeeper Jalen Tomkins ranks fourth among freshmen nationally with a .857 save percentage and a .82 goals-against average.
“They have young players and have shown they can compete at a high level,” Smith said. “We understand that there will be challenges, but we will have to move the ball against them like we have all year against opponents and do the things that we’ve done well.”
Along with the Gamecocks’ match against Colorado at 7 p.m., Stone Stadium will host two more NCAA Tournament matches Thursday, including the USC men vs. Mercer at 1 p.m. and the BYU women vs. Oklahoma at 4 p.m.
Smith said she’s looking forward to the level of talent that will be present on the Gamecocks’ home turf.
“It’s going to highlight some of the best teams in the country for women’s soccer, so that’s exciting,” Smith said. “For us, to be able to host again and be a top seed in the tournament, we’re excited and thrilled to be at home and hope to continue to the Final Four if we keep winning.”
NCAA soccer tripleheader
A look at the three NCAA Tournament games on Thursday:
USC men: USC vs. Mercer, 1 p.m.
NCAA women: BYU vs. Oklahoma, 4 p.m.
USC women: USC vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
Where: All games at Stone Stadium
Tickets: Tickets for the men are $8 (adults) and $5 (youth/17 and under), cash only. The first 300 students receive free admission. Gates will open at noon.
Following the men’s game, Stone Stadium will be cleared and tickets for the women’s games will be $8 (adults) and $5 (youth), cash only. Beginning at 6 p.m., the first 540 students will receive free admission.
Watch: All three games will be streamed live via the WatchESPN app
Of note: The men’s game is a first-rounder, while the women’s games are in the second round.