After completing the longest win-streak in program history (18), the South Carolina women’s soccer team started a new streak with a win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks (20-1-1) defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 1-0 at Stone Stadium Thursday in a match characterized by missed offensive opportunities for both teams.
“I think we knew coming in that they have been solid all year defensively and we had to find a way to get behind them,” head coach Shelley Smith said.
Senior forward Sophie Groff scored the first and only goal of the night on a penalty kick in the 73rd minute. Although she got a leg cramp during the match, Groff said she knew she wanted to take the kick for her team.
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“We have a few people, you know, who take the PKs. It’s just kind of like a thing to where sometimes we do rotate. Usually, it’s kind of like if you’re feeling it, you go,” Groff said. “After I got my cramp, I got a little bit stretched out and I was like, ‘’No, I want it.’ ”
Despite tallying nine shots and five shots on goal, the Gamecocks were unable to score in the first half. Groff credits the Gamecocks’ limited scoring to freshman goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins, who came into the match ranked fourth amongst freshmen nationally with a .857 save percentage.
“I think that the goalkeeper had an amazing game. I think she made some really good saves off the line,” Groff said. “Their defensive unit was very strong. We were able to find those opportunities but weren’t able to put it in the back of the net. They kind of took it to us on that.”
The Buffaloes also found success in defending SEC Offensive Player of the Year Savannah McCaskill, who head coach Danny Sanchez called the most dynamic attacker his team has faced this season. Colorado contained McCaskill to six shots and two shots on goals, but her teammates found ways to compensate for it in the second half.
“They did a good job to not give Savannah much room in the middle,” Smith said. “Our midfield did a wonderful job to switch the point of attack and find open players, but I thought we figured it out a bit in the second half and that’s when we started to create more opportunities and chances.”
South Carolina freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski protected the net from five shots on goal in her 11th shutout of the season.
With this win, South Carolina will advance to host No. 4 ranked BYU in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
NCAA Women’s Soccer Quarterfinals
Who: USC vs. BYU
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Where: Stone Stadium