ATHENS, Ga. - A second-half Georgia penalty kick tied the score before the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs were scored another to hand No. 5 South Carolina its first loss of the season, 2-1, at the Georgia Soccer Stadium on a chilly Friday night.
Sophomore Kayla Grimsley notched her team-leading eighth goal of the season in the eighth minute, but the Gamecocks (13-1-1, 5-1-1 SEC) fell.
South Carolina remains in the SEC East lead with 16 points and holds a 2-1 record in game against ranked opponents this season.
Georgia's Caroline Simpson was awarded a penalty kick in the 52nd minute and scored the winning goal in the 67th. The goal at 66:51 for the Bulldogs marked the first time this season that the Gamecocks have trailed in a game.
"It's a learning experience for us," South Carolina coach Shelley Smith said. "The good thing is we've played so well that we haven't been put in this position all year. The unfortunate thing is we were going to face (a loss) at some point.
"This is a good Georgia team and it's hard to play at their place. They did what they needed to do to finish their chances. We didn't give them a lot of chances just like we've done all year. We've been able to shut teams down, but they were a good team to take advantage of what we gave them. It wasn't our best performance. When you don't click and put things together for 90 minutes, you give up opportunities. We lost but we'll grow from it and learn from it. That's what good teams do."
Redshirt junior Mollie Patton registered two saves, both on Georgia breakaway's that turned into one-on-one opportunities for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina held a 12-8 shot advantage and 8-4 shots on goal advantage but were only able to get one corner kick opportunity in the game.
South Carolina scored on the first shot of the game when Grimsley fielded a clearance by Samantha Diaz-Matosas and juked a Georgia defender for a one-on-one opportunity with Georgia keeper Michelle Betos. Grimsley slotted her ball past Betos at 7:07 to give the Gamecocks the early lead.
Grimsley continued o give the Bulldog defense fits throughout the half, getting another open look in the 19th off a cross from Brooke Jacobs that Betos was able to corral as Grimsley had to hurdle her. The speedy forward then had another breakaway in the 25th minute, but her dribble went out far enough to allow Betos to run up and again end the threat.
At the end of the half, Georgia's Alex Hooker had an opportunity to get the equalizer with an open shot that sailed high over the net.
At the start of the second half, Hooker had another attempt thwarted when the ball angled to the top of the net before Patton parried it over with her fingertips.
It wasn't until an call by the official in the 52nd minute gave Georgia a penalty kick that Patterson was able to convert at 51:21.
"It's unfortunate that a PK is given in that situation, but it's the ref's opinion," Smith said. "It's a 50-50 ball at the top of the '18. It's not when someone's about to score a goal. It's not a call I would have expected to be made. It's unfortunate, but we have to deal with that kind of adversity in soccer all the time. It's something we will learn from and get better as a team."
In the 55th, Jacobs almost tied the match with a perfect cross into the box, but the two Gamecock attackers collided in front of the net.
Patterson was able to score her second goal of the night at 66:51 with an open shot in the box. In the final 20 minutes, the Gamecocks pushed a flurry of attacks on the Bulldog defense, but despite the accuracy of shots on goal, none of the attempts went into the net as the Gamecocks dropped their first match of the season.
South Carolina returns to action Sunday afternoon when the team visits Tennessee (7-5-3) at Regal Stadium in Knoxville. The Vols tied No. 11 Florida 2-2 Friday night.