Oct. 29, 2010

Courtesy of South Carolina Athletics

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Florida senior Nicky Kit's 19-yard free kick with two seconds remaining in the first half bounced off the right post and into the net to send the No. 8 Gators to a 1-0 victory against No. 17 South Carolina in the SEC regular season championship match. The Gators (15-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) claimed their fifth consecutive SEC regular season crown while the Gamecocks (14-4-2, 8-2-1 SEC) earn the second seed in next week's SEC Tournament, the highest SEC finish for the Gamecocks in program history.

The match was another in a string of exciting matches between the budding SEC rivals, with three of the last five matches at Stone Stadium going to overtime with the other two matches ending in 1-0 scores.

The scoring opportunity at 44:58 was one that the 2,548 Gamecock fans in attendance would not agree with. In front of the sixth-largest crowd in Stone Stadium history for a women's soccer match, Florida was awarded the free kick just outside the penalty area with eight seconds remaining in the half. With a collection of Gamecocks and Gators standing in front of the ball with the clock winding down, the official, under the belief that Carolina was stalling for time despite Florida's play on the ball, signaled a clock stoppage with two seconds remaining. Kit took the ensuing kick with the clock stopped and saw her shot ricochet off the right post and past goalkeeper Mollie Patton for the deciding score.

South Carolina had a few options of their own to put a point on the board but came up short on their attempts, only managing one shot on goal despite getting feet on the ball in the box numerous times. Perhaps the biggest opportunity occurred in the 77th minute when freshman midfielder Danielle Au found her way into the '18 before getting tackled from behind by a Gator defender. The Gamecock bench wanted a penalty kick called, but the referee deemed the tackle fair and Carolina was unable to get an attempt off.

It was senior night for the Gamecocks who honored the senior class of Patton, Brittiny Rhoades, Brooke Jacobs, Maddy Kill and Maggie Blackwell before the match. The group of seniors have led South Carolina to a program-best four-year record of 58-21-11, a mark that ranks 15th in the NCAA. Jacobs, playing her first extensive action since suffering a hamstring injury against Alabama on Oct. 10, almost put the Gamecocks ahead 1-0 in the 24th after taking a thru ball from Kayla Grimsley in the box, but the forward was brought down to end the threat. It was one of four missed opportunities in the box for the Gamecocks in the opening period. Au had two headers off set pieces that went wide of the frame. The best look came in the 39th when Grimsley had a 1v1 opportunity with Florida goalkeeper Katie Fraine but caught the ball with the wrong part of her foot on the shot, whiffing it wide right.

Grimsley ends the regular season as the SEC leader in goals (11), points (31) and game-winning goals despite not getting a goal Friday night. Her shot on an indirect free kick 16-yards out in the 58th minute was the only shot on goal of the match for Carolina, but the effort was tip-saved by Fraine to keep the Florida margin at 1-0.

The Gators on the other hand came out on target to start the match. The first six shots by the Gators were on goal as Patton earned five saves in addition to the goal allowed off the set piece. Florida ended the night with a 9-7 edge in shots and 6-1 edge in shots on goal, but the Gamecocks held an impressive 8-3 edge in corner kicks, further demonstrating the frustration on the offensive end with multiple opportunities in the SEC title match.

South Carolina will take on Kentucky in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals next Wednesday at 12 noon CT. The Gamecocks defeated the Kentucky by a 5-1 score in the regular season matchup.