South Carolina tops Texas
Gamecocks advance to second round for third year in a row
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Senior Lolly Holland scored in the seventh minute to send South Carolina to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season with a 1-0 victory against Texas (11-9-1) Friday night at Stone Stadium. South Carolina (16-6-0) advances to take on the winner of Friday’s late match between top-seed Stanford and Montana.
Holland’s goal at 6:25 was assisted by a pair of classmates in seniors Kayla Grimsley and Maria Petroni. The assist was the 10th of the season for Grimsley, and gives the SEC Offensive Player of the Year back-to-back seasons with at least 10 goals and 10 assists for 30 points. She is the only Gamecock to accomplish that feat.
Freshman Sabrina D’Angelo recorded the shutout in goal with four saves in the contest. It is the fourth solo shutout and eighth combined shutout of the season for the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
“We’re thrilled with the win,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “We were glad to get a home bid and took full advantage of that. The crowd was great tonight, and our players were ready to play from the start. That’s what we needed to do against a good Texas team. I was proud of our effort and how we jumped on them early and luckily got a goal. We went from there and held on.”
“Congratulations to South Carolina,” Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli said. “I thought they were a good team. Shelley has done a wonderful job here creating a quality program. The university should be proud of what she’s done here. As far as the game goes, we started the game slowly. We started with four freshmen, most of them towards the backside of the field, and they looked like freshmen most of the game. We were on our heels early and they got one.”
After three close scoring opportunities in the first five minutes, Holland scored her first game-winner of the season off a cross by Petroni. The senior was able to get a poke on the service and watched it slow roll into the net after All-Big 12 selection Alexa Gaul was caught out of position.
“Kayla did an awesome job to win the ball,” Holland said. “She held the ball up for us and laid it to Maria. Maria played an awesome ball in and I just tried to get to my spot and continue my run. I was able to slip it in. It was a great team play. It scared me for a second, but the spin popped it in.”
“We came in and were ready to play,” Grimsley said of the first half. “ We caught them on their heels a bit. Anytime you score early it’s a big change in the game. We got the momentum going forward. Anytime you do that, it is a great advantage. That gave us confidence, and we just went forward from there.”
The Gamecocks continued to pressure the Texas backline that consisted of three freshmen and one senior, with Petroni setting up play continuously with runs down the right flank. The runs by Petroni led to what was originally thought to be a second goal by Holland -- and an exact replica of the first score in the seventh minute -- but the score was nullified due to offsides being called.
Six minutes later, senior Kortney Rhoades had a goal of her own nullified due to a foul called on the play against the keeper. A scrum on a bounced ball in the box ended with Rhoades volleying a shot into the back of the net in the 30th, but the whistle came on contact with the keeper. Texas bounced back with three shots in a five second span in the 42nd minute as Allison Smith fired off three attempts within 18 yards. It would be unfortunate for the Longhorns, however, with defender Andie Romness blocking the first two shots with her back before the third was sailed over the bar.
The Longhorns came out strong in the second period and nearly equalized in the 49th minute when Nina Frausing Pedersen headed down a ball of a corner kick, but Gamecock midfielder Elizabeth Sinclair was there at the near post to clear the ball off the line.
Texas junior Vanessa Ibewuike missed a golden opportunity in the 53rd minute after a run by Hannah Higgins lured D’Angelo off her line and out to the flank, but Ibewuike slipped over the ball when she was fed a service in front of the un-manned net. The Longhorns would only get one more solid look on goal, and D’Angelo would make the save after Higgins against lured her out to the top of the ’18 before seeing her chip attempt get saved by the Freshman All-America candidate.
The victory evens South Carolina’s all-time NCAA tournament record to 4-4-1. Game time and opponent for next weekend’s second round match will be announced early next week.
“We’re really excited,” Holland said of the opportunity to possibly play top-seeded Stanford. “We’re ready to play anybody. We feel like we can hang with anyone. People don’t really know what we’ll bring to the table, but we’re ready for the opportunity. A lot of us haven’t played against California teams, so we’re excited to go out there, show them what we’ve got, put our best game out there and see what happens.”