Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick was all the South Carolina women’s soccer team needed in a 1-0 victory over Brigham Young at Stone Stadium on Saturday.
In the 69th minute of the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Drennan lined up about 15 yards in front of the goal, facing only goalkeeper Hannah Clark. When she saw Clark drift to her left, Drennan kicked right and deposited the ball solidly into the back of the net.
“You kind of pick a way that you want to go, and you just go that way. You try not to change it up,” Drennan said about her tendency to kick to the left on PKs. “I’ve been practicng a lot and I know I need to be going both ways. When I saw the keeper go to (my) left, I noticed there was a pretty easy slot to the right.”
From that point forward, top-seeded USC (21-1-1) drained the clock. The Gamecocks will play the winner of Sunday’s Clemson-North Carolina matchup in the Elite Eight on Friday at Stone Stadium.
“I’m very proud of this team,” USC coach Shelley Smith said. “I know I sound like a broken record, but they’ve been amazing all year. They find a way to win games. You’re going to face the top teams in the country at this point. There are only 16 teams left. We know we’re going to face top talent, and we know we’re going to face BYU at some point.”
No. 4 BYU (18-3-1) gave the Gamecocks a strong challenge throughout, and were pressuring the Gamecocks early in the game. USC worked at turning the momentum around with two near misses.
Savannah McCaskill’s direct kick at the 22nd-minute landed between teammate Paige Bendell and BYU’s Clark, but Bendell’s kick went just wide left of the goal.
About nine minutes later, Claire Studebaker headed a ball right toward Clark, who was standing in front of the net.
Even though the game was scoreless, Drennan said her teammates were going to work to break the tie in the second half.
“I think we came in a little flat,” Drennan said. “We were going against the wind and they were a really fast team with an aggressive attack. But I think with our senior leadership and (goalkeeper) Mikayla (Krzeczowski), we were able to get together and get this thing turned around.”
South Carolina outshot BYU 10-5 in the first half, but the Cougars outshot the Gamecocks 9-3 in the second half. Clark had five saves, and Krzeczowski had three.