Photo: Jeffrey Davis

Commencement issue: McCaskill leads Gamecocks in record-breaking season

Junior forward Savannah McCaskill scored 10 game-winning goals in one of the most successful seasons in the history of South Carolina women's soccer. She set a program record for goals and points and was named a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist.

For McCaskill, this status results from years of hard work that began with a childhood dream.

"I remember maybe 7, 8ish, I joined my first travel team and I was playing up a year and was talking to my dad and that’s kind of when that little girl dream kind of came out and was like, 'Hey, I want to play college soccer. I want to make the national team,'" McCaskill said. "And just ever since then my goals haven’t changed and just kind of become even bigger.”

The Irmo native grew up a Clemson fan. However, this allegiance changed her freshman year of high school when South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith became her region team coach.

Smith was impressed by the toughness McCaskill demonstrated while playing defensive back for her state team, and she recruited McCaskill to join the Gamecocks.

“She had good pace, and her vision for the game was one of the best I’d ever seen,” Smith said.

McCaskill’s intensity and drive have defined her career.

“She demands a lot of herself,” Smith said. “She also demands a lot of her teammates.”

These qualities come from her parents, who are her biggest supporters.

“They’re both very hardworking people,” the first-team All-SEC player said. “So just that virtue being instilled in me as I was growing up I think has really made me to be the person that I am today.”

This change in mentality transformed McCaskill into a team leader.

“Our team has grown to see how intense and hardworking that Savannah is, and they feed off that energy.” Smith said.

This year, the No. 5 Gamecocks aspire to be SEC regular season champions and return to the NCAA’s Elite Eight. These accomplishments are part of McCaskill’s desire to make an impact on the program. She wants to leave her jersey better than she found it.

“This whole program has been built off of the people that have come before us, and it’s shown ... We have an amazing stadium, we just got a brand new locker room and it can only go up from here,” McCaskill said. “So just to continue to build off that success and that kind of history that this program already has would be huge."

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