South Carolina forward Danielle Au knew what she needed to do after taking a perfect pass from Chelsea Drennan 12 yards in front of the Alabama goal with a little less than five minutes to play.
Au, who was disappointed when she missed on a good opportunity in the first half, hesitated briefly to get the open look before firing the game-winner in a comeback 2-1 victory against the Crimson Tide on Friday night at Stone Stadium.
“I knew I was due for one. Chelsea played a great ball, and I was just there to finish,” Au said. “When you’re playing up top, sometimes you have so much pressure to get the shot off right away. It was good that I was able to take a deep breath and then shoot it.”
By winning their fifth consecutivematch, the No. 13 Gamecocks improved to 12-1-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, which leaves them in a second-place tie. After falling behind 1-0 at the half despite outplaying the Tide, USC needed to stage its first come-from-behind win of the season.
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“I believed in my team. I had total faith that we were going to come back and win that game,” said USC goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, who has allowed six goals on the season. “From the way we started to the way we finished, we played as a team, and we dominated them.”
The Gamecocks were coming off a huge weekend during which they had key road wins against Florida and Tennessee. USC coach Shelley Smith, who won her 150th game with the program, was pleased that her team kept the momentum going against the Tide (5-8, 3-3 SEC).
“It would have been very disappointing to be on the wrong side of that score line, because we played well,” Smith said. “It’s one of those where you just keep at it and get the goal you need. That’s what we did. It was a credit to our team.”
USC evened the match at 1-1 with 30 minutes to play in the second half when midfielder Stevi Parker shook loose in front of the goal and drove a shot past Alabama goalkeeper Emily Rusk.
“At halftime, we just talked about if we can get the first one, we can get a couple more,” Parker said. “It just felt really good to help my team get the equalizer. From there, we just were able to settle down and play our game again.”
The Gamecocks had plenty of opportunities in the first half, with an 11-4 advantage in shots on goal, but they could not convert, including several shots from close range. Alabama was able score its goal on its only corner kick of the half when Pia Rijsdijk fired a shot that deflected off USC defender Christine Watts’ midsection and scooted just inside the left post.
“It was definitely against the run of play. Sometimes that happens in this game. We didn’t get out quick enough,” Smith said. “That’s their strongest player, and we needed to do a better job of recognizing where she was on the field at that time. Deflections are dangerous, and she hit a great shot.”
D’Angelo understood that she needed to overcome the deflected goal and keep the Tide from scoring again.
“We were able to come back like we did, and that was the most important thing after that goal, staying calm and keep playing and passing and moving and getting shots on goal like we did,” she said.
With the win, South Carolina holds a 12-4 advantage all-time against Alabama, including a 7-1 edge at Stone Stadium. Au, who scored her 10th career game-winning goal, attributed the comeback to the team’s leadership.
“We realize that we can bounce back,” she said. “If we go down a goal, we can come back. Everyone on the team believes.”